Computer Games Are Good For Your Health

A study in West Virginia finds that Dance Dance Revolution can improve your health. Schools have incorporated the game into phys ed classes

About a year ago, public schools in West Virginia entered into an agreement with Konami to incorporate Dance Dance Revolution in their physical education and health classes. It's no secret that the U.S. has somewhat of an overweight/obesity epidemic, not just among children but also in the general public as a whole. While some people have difficulty engaging in traditional exercise, the idea of "exertainment" can be a lot more appealing, whether it's dancing on a DDR mat, or playing Wii Sports.

Following last year's decision to bring DDR to schools in West Virginia, Konami enlisted the help of West Virginia University and the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency to conduct a study on the benefits of playing DDR. The research, which primarily involved the children of PEIA policy holders, revealed that "consistent use" of the dancing game "improved the health, attitudes and behaviors of participating children."

The at-home clinical study looked at a 24-week period and required that participants play DDR five days per week for at least 30 minutes and record their activity. At the same time, WVU monitored health indicators throughout the period, including weight, blood pressure, body mass index, arterial function, fitness levels and attitudes towards exercise.

Dr. Linda Carson, WVU's Ware Distinguished Professor of the School of Physical Education and Emily Murphy, pediatric exercise physiologist with WVU School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, conducted the study and found that the subjects (all above the 85th percentile for body mass index according to gender and age), "improved their general health and reduced their risks for lifestyle related diseases."

DDR should not be thought of as some magical weight loss solution, however. The research found that "although not all of the children lost weight, the majority did not gain weight while experiencing improvements in their aerobic capacity, blood vessel function and overall fitness level." It's also worth noting that the subjects had better attitudes towards exercise and improved self esteem as the project went on. Murphy commented, "Most of our subjects had historically felt awkward about participating in gym and physical activity at school. After the program, they demonstrated a new sense of confidence and desired to maintain their new found skills."

"One of earliest indicators of cardiovascular risk is decreased arterial function. The walls of the arteries are lined with endothelial cells which are important in allowing our blood vessels to expand properly in response to an increase in blood flow, such as during exercise," Murphy added. "This Institutional Review Board approved study has now provided evidence that consistent playing of DDR improves arterial function in overweight children."

Dr. Carson felt that DDR could be an ideal exercise method for some of today's kids because of the technological appeal. "The answer is clearly more exercise, but the challenge is finding something that appeals to this generation of technologically sophisticated children. DDR combines the appeal of 'screen time' within a physical activity format. We are excited that we can now demonstrate that it is a valuable health tool and something kids enjoy," she said.

Naturally, Konami couldn't be happier with the study. "The success of Dance Dance Revolution as a fitness tool stems from its ability to entertain 'kids' of all ages and skill levels. The game provides an inclusive experience that motivates people to get off the couch and move," said Catherine Fowler, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing at Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. "We are happy with the results announced by the State of West Virginia as it justifies the potential DDR has to have a positive and healthy effect on people's lives."

Encouraged by the latest findings, the Office of West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Department of Education, the Benedum Foundation, Acordia National, and Mountain State Blue Cross Blue Shield are all providing financial support for the ongoing project to supply DDR equipment, training for PE teachers, as well as to promote DDR clubs in all West Virginia public schools.

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