Video Game-Induced Weight Loss is a Tentative Reality
> 2/2/2007 1:38:35 PM

President Bush's recent public statement lamenting the prevalence of adolescent obesity and urging parents to encourage outdoor play comes amidst somewhat startling revelations about video game habits: some of today's more active gaming systems seem to aid in weight loss.

The days of video games as a purely sedentary exercise appear to be drawing to a close. While most games still require little physical effort beyond the thumbs, a new wave of more physically active titles could potentially double as light exercise routines. At the forefront of this movement is Nintendo's Wii system, released in the new year. Using small, motion-sensitive hand controllers, Wii sports games require players to mimic the movements involved in the sports they're simulating. As a result, these games do require at least a minimal degree of physical exertion, and users report heavy sweating and increased heart rates after particularly intense gaming sessions.

One blogger makes the somewhat dubious claim to have lost nine pounds over six weeks with no changes in diet or brand-new gym membership. His only sources of physical activity during this period were daily 30-minute sessions spent playing Wii sports games like virtual boxing and football. In more surprising (and reliable) development, the state of West Virginia, which is the fattest in the country, has begun to institute a plan which will place a copy of the popular arcade dance game "Dance Dance Revolution" in each of the state's public schools.

Studies indicate that the game, in which players twist and leap onto colored floor pads in increasingly quick and complicated patterns, serves as a calorie burning cardiovascular workout. One study was very specific: the body mass of two groups of students was recorded over a twenty-four week period. The first group played Dance Dance at home for at least thirty minutes five days a week. The second group played the game only during the study's second half. At the study's conclusion, students in group one either maintained their weight or lost small amounts. In the second group, students gained an average of six pounds during the first twelve weeks only to see their weight level off for the rest of the experiment. Perhaps most encouragingly, the students chosen initially reported feeling awkward about participating in phys ed at school, but after the study they claimed a new openness to trying different kinds of physical activity.

Of course, while habitual gamers may be encouraged by these reports, no worthy trainer or physical therapist will recommend Nintendo as a viable alternative to the local gym. Still, if it works for some in even the smallest ways...

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