Exergaming, which is also known as exercise games or fitness games, refers to a special type of video games that involve physical training. In other words, exergaming enables people to do sport in their own living rooms. Moreover, you can do everything you want: dancing, boxing, biking, racing, hiking, and so forth.
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Although it may be hard to get fit using only exergaming (not impossible though), in view of its unique advantages, such kind of training is irreplaceable when it comes to reducing obesity levels, children who prefer a computer to physical activity, and elderly who need to move.
General Benefits of Exergaming
Firstly, fitness games are convenient. It does not imply having a certain schedule and does not require a particular number of repetitions or the duration of training. You can do it whenever you want and for as long as you wish, choosing the right intensity. Besides, the weather will never be a problem: it is possible to play tennis or football while it is raining without getting wet.
Secondly, exercise games are motivating. Individuals with low levels of physical preparation may be too shy to go to the gym, but exergaming is suitable for both skilled and unskilled people (Ennis, 2013, p. 153). Additionally, it is more interesting and more likely to induce positive feelings among the participants (Ennis, 2013, p. 153).
Thirdly, there is a wide variety of activities that exergaming can offer, so you will hardly be bored. Finally, such kind of training is not as expensive as going to the gym since there is no need for a personal trainer. Exercise games give you the score and the feedback, so it is possible to track the progress without any trainers at all.
How Can People Benefit from Exergaming?
Fitness Games Help to Reduce Obesity Levels
Several studies have been conducted to show the link between sedentary lifestyles and the rise of obesity levels (Bailey & McInnis, 2011; Daley, 2009; Siegel, Haddock, Dubois, & Wilkin, 2009). Sedentary behavior may be caused by many factors, but one of the most common is the screen time, which includes watching TV, playing video games, excessive use of the Internet, etc. (Bailey & McInnis, 2011).
Since all these activities have a sedentary nature, they significantly raise the obesity levels of the population. As Siegel et al. (2009) state in their article, nearly 70 percent of all American households are used to playing video/computer games and watching television on the regular basis (p. 165). At the same time, the information provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that approximately 30 percent of American adults are obese (Siegel et al., 2009, p. 165).
The very similar tendency can be seen in other countries all over the world. Obesity, in its turn, is fraught with numerous health-related problems, such as hypertension, osteoarthritis, diabetes, various cardiovascular diseases, and so on (Siegel et al., 2009, p. 165). It is almost impossible now to make people reduce their screen time, by playing games and watching TV less.
However, other measures can be taken, and one of those is exergaming. This approach allows us to kill two birds with one stone: people still can be physically active and even get fit while playing games. The study by Siegel et al. (2009) proves that exercise games raise the energy expenditure and the heart rate enough for participants to benefit from training, which is shy these games should be applied with or within other exercise programs.
Exergaming as the Way to Encourage Children to be Physically Active
The origins of sedentary lifestyles usually go back to the childhood (Bailey & McInnis, 2011; Daley, 2009). That is especially true of the new generation of children, who are more likely to spend their leisure time in front of TV sets or computer monitors. The situation worsens because of the Internet, numerous social networks, mobile applications, advanced modern video games, and so forth.
Many people spend hours surfing the net and literally doing nothing. All of that contributes to sedentary behavior and obesity, and if an individual becomes overweight in the early childhood, he or she has all chances to remain overweight in adult life since it is much harder for such children to meet weight standards as adults (Bailey & McInnis, 2011).
Exergaming is one of the best possible solutions for children – it can thrill them, and they tend to participate in activities they like. According to the study conducted by Bailey and McInnis (2011) among 39 children, both of normal and excess weight, all exercise games, including boxing, dancing, and others, resulted in the rise of energy expenditure levels and the improvement of metabolic parameters.
Moreover, there have been no significant differences between various types of games – all of them turned out to be more or less equally effective. The last argument in favor of exergaming among children is that it not only helps them to maintain a healthy weight but also fosters the desire to go in for sports in the future, engaging in more and more serious activities. That, in its turn, contributes to healthy lifestyle choices and an avoidance of harmful habits.
Exercise Games and Physical Activity of the Elderly
While exergaming can be beneficial for children and young adults, as the studies conducted by Daley (2009), Bailey and McInnis (2011), and Siegel et al. (2009) show, such kind of exercises can also be useful for the elderly. Old-aged people need to be physically active and move, otherwise, many adverse consequences will follow. In their article, Diest, Lamoth, Stegenga, Verkerke, and Postema (2013) focus on the poor postural control that can cause falls and, as a consequence, fall injuries.
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As the statistics provided in the article states, nearly 33% of community-dwelling elderly fall at least one time in a year (Diest et al., 2013, p. 1). Up to 20 percent of those falls have serious consequences, from lacerations to head traumas and even deaths. However, the postural control can and should be improved through training, and one of the best ways to do this is exergaming. In addition to the fact that such kind of training improves the balance abilities, it also increases the motivation and makes old-aged people enjoy their training programs (Diest et al., 2013, p. 10).
To conclude, although it is hard to get fit with the help of exergaming only, it can be a good starting point for many people. Such training is convenient, relatively easy and cheap, as well as suitable for both skilled and unskilled individuals. However, what is the most important is the fact that it can bring benefits in many cases when more traditional training programs fail.
Bailey, B. W., & McInnis, K. (2011). Energy Cost of Exergaming: A Comparison of the Energy Cost of 6 Forms of Exergaming. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine Journal, 165(7), 597-602.
Daley, A. J. (2009). Can Exergaming Contribute to Improving Physical Activity Levels and Health Outcomes in Children? Pediatrics, 124(2), 763-771.
Diest, M., Lamoth, C. J., Stegenga, J., Verkerke, G. J., & Postema, K. (2013). Exergaming for balance training of elderly: state of the art and future developments. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 10(101), 1-12.
Ennis, C. D. (2013). Implications of exergaming for the physical education curriculum in the 21st century. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 2(3), 152-157.
Siegel, S. R., Haddock, B. L., Dubois, A. M., & Wilkin, L. D. (2009). Active Video/Arcade Games (Exergaming) and Energy Expenditure in College Students. International Journal of Exercise Science, 2(3), 165–174.