Why do we need video games to enjoy exercise?
I had mixed feelings – I often do – when I read that children were more likely to get their daily quota of exercise when it was combined with video games.
The University of Cumbria in England, which carried out a study into children’s exercise habits, found that youngsters can get their daily exercise if they combine it with CERTAIN video games.
It found that 90 per cent of the children interviewed said they wanted to play video games at the same time as exercising because it helps to reduce the boredom factor.
But, and there is always a big BUT with these types of research, the sample was only 50 children aged between 11 and 12 and they used exercise equipment combined with a set of video games provided by Gamercize.
Hardly a massive poll of children, is it? And just the one kind of video game provider? Smacks of a bit of desperate marketing to me.
The research said that children could play their games only while they maintained movement on the fitness machines. If they stopped exercising, the games paused.
From the small sample of children who took part in this research, it was found that only one in five of them managed to fit in one hour of exercise a day, while more than 75 per cent played video games found that their 60 minute gaming sessions were easily accommodated into their busy daily schedules.
But combining the two, it is suggested in this study, offers the best of both worlds.
So why do I have mixed feelings about this?
I’d agree that this gaming-with-exercise model is better than nothing. Even the National Obesity Forum acknowledged that when he was asked to comment about the study.
The clinical director Dr David Haslam said that physical inactivity in children was a major cause of the obesity epidemic.
“This study begins to show that by providing more novel opportunities, it is possible to increase a child’s activity in a painless and effective way,” he said.
Video games and so on certainly have their place in our lives and we are lucky to have many forms of media at our disposal. Children are fickle creatures; their attention spans are short and, from my experience, need not so much caring and nurturing on a daily basis, but constant access to activities and diversions.
Parents are taking on the role of entertainment managers: they are frightened to let their children get bored. If they are not ferrying them hither and thither to an organised activity (academic or otherwise) then they are parked in front of their gaming consoles. At least, the argument goes, we know where they are and they are safe.
That is fair comment to a point, but we parents are culpable in this, surely?
It’s up to us to get them out and about. If we slob around, watching TV, playing on the PlayStation and pretending that doing Wii sport is a physical activity to replace “proper” exercise or even a brisk walk in the park, is it any wonder that’s what the children do? They model their behaviour on what the adults do.
And before you ask, I’m as guilty as the next parent. I don’t go to the gym, but I do limit the use of the DS/Wii and whatever other small screen there is to occupy them.
And if they do kick up a fuss about leaving the DS behind so they can take part in a family bike ride, then remember who is in charge. I’m rather hoping it is the adult in the family.
It is our duty as parents to go out and enjoy some sport; to take them to the swimming pool; even to take a walk to the park and feed the ducks. It is all exercise.
So while Gamercize et al have their place (and even Derbyshire Sport introduced Gamercize equipment into schools this year), we must put it into perspective.
We don’t need the help of machines to have fun exercising. Just see any child running around a park with their friends.
You never know, I might even take up my own advice …