Video Game-Induced Weight Loss is a Tentative Reality
> 2/2/2007 1:44:54 PM

President Bush's recent public statementlamenting the prevalence of adolescent obesity and urging parents toencourage outdoor play comes amidst somewhat startling revelationsabout video game habits: some of today's more active gaming systemsseem to aid in weight loss.

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

One blogger makes the somewhat dubious claimto have lost nine pounds over six weeks with no changes in diet orbrand-new gym membership. His only sources of physical activity duringthis period were daily 30-minute sessions spent playing Wii sportsgames like virtual boxing and football. In more surprising (andreliable) development, the state of West Virginia, which is the fattestin 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 padsin increasingly quick and complicated patterns, serves as a calorieburning cardiovascular workout. One study was very specific: the bodymass of two groups of students was recorded over a twenty-four weekperiod. The first group played Dance Dance at home for at least thirtyminutes five days a week. The second group played the game only duringthe study's second half. At the study's conclusion, students in groupone either maintained their weight or lost small amounts. In the secondgroup, students gained an average of six pounds during the first twelveweeks only to see their weight level off for the rest of theexperiment. Perhaps most encouragingly, the students chosen initiallyreported feeling awkward about participating in phys ed at school, butafter the study they claimed a new openness to trying different kindsof physical activity.

Of course, while habitual gamers may beencouraged by these reports, no worthy trainer or physical therapistwill 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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