The benefits of exergaming

The benefits of exergaming

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Video games have come a long way since Pong, with interactive gaming fast becoming a different way to workout. But is this trend a passing fad, or the future of fitness? Exercise Physiologist Andrew Cate investigates.

What is exergaming?

Gaming is often blamed as one of the causes of the increased weight gain we have seen in modern society. But could a new breed of active games help put a stop to all that?

Exergaming, also known as virtual fitness or exertainment, is the marriage of physical activity with video games. Designed for both children and adults alike, what started with Wii sports, there is now an ever increasing range of games and exercise equipment which almost ‘trick’ you into being active. 

With technology evolving at a rapid pace, it’s pleasing to see some emphasis placed on getting people moving/span> rather than encouraging them to be sedentary.

Exergaming how-to

The hardware for exergaming can range from motion sensitive wireless devices, virtual reality glasses, to actual exercise equipment. There are even cameras that track your movement and superimpose you as a character on screen. 

This new generation of computer games are designed to stimulate greater interaction and movement during play. 

Exergaming means you can do a number of activities virtually including:
  • Tennis
  • Baseball
  • Skiing
  • Boxing
  • Dancing
  • Simulated hula hooping and tightrope walking
  • Step aerobics
  • Jogging
  • Jumping / dodging moving targets
  • Skateboarding

Does exergaming make you fitter?

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that while exergaming is better for your health than normal video games, the benefits are small.
The research showed that playing interactive video games like boxing and tennis on the Nintendo Wii helped participants burn over 50 per cent more kilojoules compared to playing sedentary games like Xbox. 

However, the study also found that real boxing training (using a punching bag) used more than twice as many kilojoules as Wii boxing. Real doubles tennis was also nearly twice as demanding compared to the virtual version. 

The exergaming fitness activities were not intense enough to be included as part of what is recommended for daily physical activity

However, on a positive note, participants were on their feet, moving in all directions and performing active skills. It’s fair to assume that exergaming is certainly a better choice compared to sedentary video games, or just sitting and watching television. 

Include exergaming, but don’t rely on it

Whether your health goal is fitness, fat loss, flexibility or stronger muscles, exergaming does have something to offer. 

It adds a fun element to your exercise routine, and helps to maintain enthusiasm and consistency. It increases the opportunity to be active when you might otherwise be sedentary. 

However, like any exercise program, the benefits will extend to how intensely, how long, and how often you participate. 

Exergaming is not a genuine substitute for traditional exercise, and it’s not meant to be. You can’t rely on it as your only source of activity to genuinely boost your health. 

But playing video games while getting up a sweat is a lot of fun, and it’s a great addition to your regular health and fitness regime.