Parenting Tip: “Exergaming”

New 'active' video games combine body movement with gaming skill.
WebMD Feature

Want to hula your way to health in your own living room? How about dancing, boxing, or biking your way to a better body?

If you've got a video game console like the Kinect for Xbox 360, PlayStationMove, or the Wii Fit -- sales of which are projected to reach $40 billion by 2015 -- you may be able to do just that.

Exergames: A Serious Workout While You Play?

The trend is called exergaming, short for exercise games, and it's kicking the world of video game up a notch -- literally.

With kung fu, boxing, biking, and dance software, the goal of many of today's popular video games is to get you off the couch and on the way to a pulse-pounding workout. The question is: do they work?

The University of Calgary Exergaming Research Centre, the American Council on Exercise, and the University of Massachusetts Department of Exercise and Health Sciences all offer a qualified yes.

When used at intermediate or high intensity, exergaming can indeed improve fitness -- though some exercise games make that easier than others. A moderate 3 mph walk burns about four calories a minute, or 120 calories per half hour. How do exergames stack up?


Exergame Calorie burn/minute Calorie burn/30 minutes
Golf 3.1 93
Bowling 3.9 117
Baseball 4.5 135
Tennis 5.3 159
Dancing 5.3 159
Boxing 7.2 216

Again, it's all about intensity. Nearly any exergame can help you get fit if you make an effort and "really work it," says Bryan Haddock, DrPH, a professor in the department of kinesiology at California State University, San Bernardino. So what is there to work with?

Exergaming: Main Players and New Contenders

There are a few well-known players in the exercise game field, with an important upstart emerging. The contenders are:

  • Kinect for Xbox 360: With multi- and single-player games that include boxing, volleyball, kung fu, track and field, soccer, and more, the Kinect is hands-free, using a sensor in the game console to track movement, then translate it into game play.
  • PlaystationMove: Employing a camera and a motion controller remote, this gaming console offers exercise game titles for single and multi-player play, including beach volleyball, disc golf, archery, dance, table tennis, kickboxing, and more.
  • Nintendo Wii Fit: Featuring multi- and single-player games, including skateboarding, hula, kung fu, skiing, dance games, and more, the Wii Fit uses a balance board and remote, both of which translate real life movement into game play.
  • Smart Phones: Exergames for smart phones like the Android and iPhone are still in their infancy, but Ernie Medina Jr., DrPH, a preventive care specialist in California and self-described "exergame evangelist" sees a definite trend. "Instead of being stuck inside with a TV and a console, these games get you playing outdoors."

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