Punch, Throw, Swing: Experts Touting Exercise Video Games
"Honey, I handed the kids the remote," is the new mantra of health-savvy moms and dads who are boasting "I told you so," to naysayers who once pooh-poohed video games.
Now, experts say, the virtual reality of many games actually requires kids to work up a sweat and helps keep video game players in physical shape. They're regaling the benefits of Nintendo's "Wii Sports," Konami's "Dance Dance Revolution" and other video games that require players to go through motions to make their virtual counterparts perform.
Dubbed "evergaming," the boxing, dancing and martial arts on these games can be a recipe for youthful fitness.
"Exergaming is beneficial because it keeps (kids) in a culture of movement, as opposed to a culture of (inactivity)," Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center for Media and Children's Health at Children's Hospital in Boston, tells the American Academy of Pediatrics newsmagazine.
Participation in more intense video games, he says, is comparable to moderate-intensity walking.
However, experts caution that exergaming is not a substitute for traditional exercise, but simply a supplemental physical activity, and parents should continue to encourage their kids to play outside.
They also urge parents to beware of "Wii-itis" or overuse injuries.
"Stretch appropriately and pay attention to your body. If something starts to hurt, stop," advises Gwenn O'Keeffe, M.D., FAAP, of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media, in the report.
Parents are cautioned to make careful selections and to note that the benefits of using a Wii are directly related to a child's energy level.
"You can cheat, you don't really have to move your body a lot," Lisa Hansen, Ph.D., who heads the exergaming research lab at the University of South Florida, says in the report.
Parents eager for a firsthand look at the cardiovascular benefits of their children's video game time can check out TEN, a ranking system that rates the fitness levels of popular video games. This nonprofit games for health advocacy group, made up of health and fitness professionals as well as exergame developers, promotes an active and healthy lifestyle by combining video game technologies and exercise.
Related: A Cub Scout Badge for Video Games?!
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.