It’s a vicious, ugly battle.
Punches rain down upon the battered boxer. His head snaps back and around like a dog’s toy being shaken. Finally, a final straight right sends him to the canvas.
Beaten — by an 8-year-old girl.
“Woo-hoo,” yells Lorelei Mansfield, throwing her arms in the air. Her breath is audible and the smell of sweat is in the air — par for the course for a boxer dealing some rough justice.
Then she puts down the controller and heads to the kitchen for some fruit snacks.
For nearly three decades, the only physical sign of someone having played video games was a thumb cramp. Now, the virtual reality of many games requires players to punch, throw and swing. And that, according to some studies, is helping keep video game players in better physical shape than in decades past.
The American Academy of Pediatrics in March said the magic words that gamers have dreamed about for decades: Playing video games can be considered exercise, especially Wii Sports and Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution, in which users go through the motions making their virtual counterparts perform. Boxing, martial arts, basketball, archery, bowling, table tennis and more can be simulated in one’s own living room. The key is standing up and participating in what’s being called “Exergaming.”
“Exergaming is beneficial because it keeps [kids] in a culture of movement as opposed to a culture of [inactivity],” Dr. Michael Rich, the director of the Center for Media and Children’s Health at Children’s Hospital in Boston, tells the American Academy of Pediatrics news magazine.”
A study published in the journal Pediatrics showed participation in intense games such as Wii Boxing or Dance Dance Revolution was comparable to moderate-intensity walking. But another article in the same issue said that while Exergaming uses significantly more energy than sitting around pushing buttons, those games don’t provide as much benefit as participating in actual sports.
“Unless you do resistance-type exercise, you won’t gain a lot of strength,” says Dr. Robert Dimeff, sports medicine director at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “To get cardiovascular benefits, you’d need to get your heart rate and blood pressure up.”
[Video]: Kids Exergaming on the iDANCE Multiplayer Dance and Step System available at Exergame Fitness.
“Video games can work as exercise,” says Dr. Susan Bartell, author of Dr. Susan’s Fit & Fun Family Action Plan. “However, one of the things I’ve noticed … is that kids learn how to get over on the game and, therefore, on their parents. They’ll play tennis while sitting down.”