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Interactive Video Games Offer Exercise Benefits
Date:6/5/2009

Payoff was especially evident with seniors, researchers say

FRIDAY, June 5 (HealthDay News) -- Couch potatoes beware: If you start playing a new generation of video games that require users to get up and move around, you may find yourself getting a bit more fit.

New research suggests that several exercise-based Nintendo Wii video games provide health benefits, in one case equal to that of light jogging.

And seniors in Florida managed to raise their heart rates by playing a video-game version of bowling. Many managed to have a good time and even engage in some "trash talk" about who was better, the researchers said.

Exercise-via-video-game might not replace the value of traditional methods of getting fit, said Elizabeth DiRico, an exercise physiologist who studied college students who played Wii athletic games. Still, "if you have an unfit individual, this would be a good way to transition them from being a couch potato into moving more," she said.

Playing a video game has traditionally been a sedentary activity, requiring users to do little more than stand or sit and manipulate a joystick. But many new video games require players to get up and move about, whether to dance or mimic the movements of real-life athletes.

In the Wii bowling game, for instance, players hold onto a controller device as if it were a bowling ball and try to hit the virtual pins at the end of a lane on the screen. The game doesn't require quite as much physical activity as real-life bowling -- for one, the "ball" doesn't weigh much -- but players do have to move around and perhaps get out of their chairs when it's their turn.

In one of the new studies, researchers asked 44 people in their 60s, 70s and 80s to play the Wii bowling game at a senior center in Pensacola, Fla. The researchers found that the game boosted the heart rate of the participants by about 40 percent, and many reported enjoying the game, said
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