There is a term coined from companies such as Atari and Nintendo to describe the virtual, interactive games that are available on the market. The phrase is “active gaming”. The Wii is a popular choice and more games will be on the market in the future. The ability to move around physically with a game on TV such as volleyball or tennis can be fun and has some benefits. Already, the Wii is being utilized in nursing homes and assistive living facilities to get the elderly population moving even if they are confined to a wheelchair. For young brain injured patients, it is incorporated in their therapy for balance and coordination skills. These programs make rehabilitation more interesting for young injured persons and can bring joy to less abled older persons. However, for the able bodied, the virtual games should not substitute actual physical activity or exercise such as games or sports outside. And, the Wii should not be considered an exercise replacement for able bodied individuals.
Why shouldn’t it? One reason is that exercise needs to elevate your heart rate for a sustained time of 30 minutes for cardiovascular training to increase your endurance. Walking, running, swimming and riding bicycles are beneficial. Game with other adults or children such as kickball, soccer, tag, jump roping, dodgeball can be fun family events. Or make up your own game. Now, that summer is here, the pool or lake are great venus for fun. The sustained running and jumping builds bone strength, muscle strength, balance and coordination for all individuals. In addition, being outside and away from the TV improves mental focus and it improves sleep.
Participation in recreational or school sports is also very beneficial. It appears these days that many are trying to specialize in one sport at any early age in order to excel or become a star. I suggest a change in focus- participation in many sports and involve as many children and teenagers as possible. Be inclusive to all to teach the benefits of physical exercise, sportsmanship and team work. It can be one tool to help address the continued rise of childhood obesity.
So, save the virtual games for a rainy or oppressively hot day or less able bodied person. And remember with most electronic games, it will be replaced by something else next year (so save your money). The good old plastic or rubber playing ball has been around forever and still offers lots of fun.