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PEORIA, IL. Local study to examine if video games can help kids lose weight
A local medical study beginning in early January will examine if video games can help kids lose weight and boost their self-esteem.

The aim of the study, starting Jan. 5, is to see if exergames – activities incorporating video games into an exercise regime – can help overweight and obese children get into shape.

At the same time, researchers hope the new form of exercise will encourage sedentary children who shy away from more conventional forms of exercise – out of embarrassment or disinterest – to become more active and positive in their outlook on their health.

“A lot of these kids don’t enjoy traditional sports or P.E.,” said Dr. Amy Christison, a pediatrician at Mount Holly Pediatrics and lead author of the study. Christison said the research is not intended to project a “boot camp” atmosphere but instead offer a more entertaining and engaging experience.

Any positive benefits reaped from exergaming, she hopes, will translate to a greater willingness to get off the couch and get moving. “I’m hoping this will be a gateway to other forms of exercising.”

In the study, 20 children ages 8 to 18 will spend one hour a week working out in the newly opened exergaming room at the RiverPlex Recreation and Wellness Center and one hour in a classroom learning about living a healthier life. Medical students from the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria will facilitate and work with the participants.

The study will last for 10 weeks and a second run has already been planned for the spring for which, Christison said, there is a waiting list for participants.

Positive results might attract some financial help from grants and depending on the outcomes of the research, Christison would like to make the study a permanent program to help treat obese children in the community.

“I have nowhere to send them,” she said of the young obese patients she sees.
The RiverPlex opened its exergaming room to the public Nov. 14 and has attracted some interest, RiverPlex general manager Matt Freeman said.

This year, the new RiverPlex Exergaming room was outfitted by American company Exergame Fitness. Exergame Fitness is the global leader in Exergaming products and services having over 500 locations worldwide.

“The kids love it,” he said last week. Adults, however, have been less sanguine about the flashing screens and thumping music. “They think of video games in a negative light, so to speak.”

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