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Studio will encourage kids to exercise by using interactive video games

Thursday, April 24, 2008

By Brian Feldt

Of The Journal Star
Peoria – In efforts to reduce childhood obesity in central Illinois, the Peoria Park District Board of Trustees will fund an “exergaming” studio in the RiverPlex to promote physical fitness among young people.

The board voted unanimously to give the RiverPlex a $56,000 loan to complete the project, which will fill the empty space of the former Peoria Athletic Club, RiverPlex Superintendent Brent Wheeler said Wednesday. The club will be using an American company called Motion Kids to install, train and educate the entire facility on Exergaming. Motion Kids is located in the Buehler YMCA in Palatine, Illinois and provide solutions to the growing epidemic of Childhood Obesity.

Exergaming is a new and innovative approach to traditional exercise programs that caters to children and teenagers by incorporating video games into an exercise regime.

In theory, young people can play video games while enduring physical activity instead of sitting on the couch and pressing buttons.

While the popular video game Dance Dance Revolution may be the most popular form of exergaming at the moment, many other programs exist.

“Your body is the controller,” said RiverPlex General Manager Matt Freeman. “We are recognizing what this generation likes to do, and physical activity is something that doesn’t excite them. They are excited about gaming, and this will get them excited about physical activity again.”

Upon completion, the exergaming studio will be used for a 16-week program that will focus on keeping kids active and healthy while keeping the family involved.

Once drawn into the exergaming programs, the hope is that the kids will then continue to exercise throughout their lives.

“This is what can get some young kids started with physical activity,” said Wheeler. “Then, it can prepare them for more traditional means of exercise.”

OSF Saint Francis Medical Center has already jumped on board with the program and will split all project-associated costs with the park district while providing nutritional information for the 16-week course.

The program is believed to be the only one of its kind between Chicago and St. Louis.

Park District Board Vice President Roger Allen saw the addition as a no-brainer and described the equipment as cutting-edge.

“The park district will be better and the community will be better with this,” he said. “We’ll all be better for it.”

Wheeler said if the RiverPlex gets three family memberships per month – which he thought plausible – studio costs should be covered.

The studio also will be used for a number of other activities, including open play, birthday parties, field trips, lock-ins, private rentals and other such activities, which Wheeler said also will help the studio pay for itself.

Brian Feldt can be reached at 686-3194 or bfeldt@pjstar.com.

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