Exercise + Entertainment = Wii is good for your health
Recently, we reported on a study conducted in West Virginia that pointed out the benefits of playing Konami's Dance Dance Revolution game on a consistent basis (see BusinessWeek.com, 2/5/07, "Computer Games Are Good For Your Health"). While DDR and games like it have existed for years, the mainstream popularity of Nintendo's new Wii system may be taking the "exertainment" craze to the next level. Now the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), a teaching institution and certification agency for fitness trainers, has chimed in with its opinion on playing video games, most notably DDR and the Wii.
Following an investigation into the health effects of playing video games, the report noted that while games have historically been blamed for the nation's obesity epidemic, new gaming technologies "may prove to be just what fitness experts are looking for to help their clients get more active, increase their heart rate and spend less time sitting on the couch."
"Exertainment and home video consoles are the wave of the future," commented Dr. Josh Trout, Professor of Kinesiology at California State University Chico, who specializes in video game technology and exercise movement. "Exergaming can provide excellent health benefits, but so can a Stairmaster, lifecycle or treadmill, if you do it. If a person has chosen a sedentary lifestyle, there is not much a new technology is going to do for them. On that note, exergaming, and exertainment, is an excellent way for getting kids hooked on physical activity, producing good exercise habits that can last their lifetime."
"I think that any gaming system that gets the users off the couch and moving around has obvious health benefits. I saw kids using the Wii in the mall, and they were working up quite a sweat playing the boxing and tennis games," remarked Al Grant, an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer and father of two. Grant even said that games can sometimes inspire kids to try out a sport in real life. "The benefits can go beyond the actual games themselves in my opinion," he said. "Video games sometimes serve as a springboard to the real sports, and believe it or not, it was actually recommended by my son's football coach that he play Madden 2007 to learn the plays that they want to implement in the coming season."
While the ISSA trainers polled acknowledged that DDR provides a greater workout and therefore is more likely to help improve one's fitness level, the Wii shouldn't be discounted. "The Nintendo Wii will show benefits for everyone," said ISSA certified trainer Nichole Snow. "Whether you can sit down for the game or you have to be standing, it involves movement. The best part is its just fun - for everyone. Deconditioned and obese individuals will find it fun to play and gain aerobic movement out of the games. Seniors can enjoy gentle movements of bowling and golfing. Youth become a part of the game and don't just turn into vegetables in front of the TV. Everyone can burn some calories and learn some good health habits from Nintendo Wii's fitness, and the system is just too hard to pass up when watching anyone play."