In 2006 video game sales were an estimated $7.4 billion, so it is safe to say that almost every home in the United States has at least a computer and/or some other video gaming unit. With this many gaming consoles children are spending more time indoors playing video games instead of outside playing or participating in athletic programs. This is a concerning trend since during childhood, physical exercise through different games at school and after school such as football, basketball, soccer, and tennis is crucial in laying the foundation for muscle building and bone strengthening. Regular physical activity as a child benefits a person as they get older, allowing them to live longer healthier lives, and without exercise people develop more physical ailments such as aches and pains, weak bones, even heart problems.


Before home computers and Nintendo, children spent more time outside engaging in their favorite games and other exercises. This routine has taken a beating with the advent of computers, video games and the internet. With loads of computer games and simulations to indulge in, children rarely prefer to play outdoors these days. Instead, most of them spend hours on end in their bedrooms gaming, sometimes as much as 6-8 hours without pause, but, what can we do to change this potentially dangerous trend? Force them to indulge in physical activities? 


If you think that advice is the best way to bring about some sort of physical activity, you are mistaken. Coercing your children into some sort of athletics does not work. Instead of fighting the problem, look for a solution. Researchers have come up with the idea of ‘exergames’ or ‘exertainment’ machines to help children achieve all of the positive results of physical exercise, while not compromising on the excitement and charm that computer games provide. In other words, these are video games that incorporate various workouts in a compelling and interesting manner. This includes mountain bikes with ride simulation video screens that create a game environment with virtual competitors; monitoring mechanisms with visuals to track vertical jumps; and rock climbing set up with video simulations that prompt climbers to dodge obstacles or hop over hurdles.


In a few cities, some health clubs have joined the trend and introduced exertainment machines into their gyms and have reported that their membership strength is soaring with every passing day. Apart from the above mentioned exertainment features, many of these gyms are also equipped with video game consoles that require users to stand up and move their hands and legs in order to move controls, engaging the torso muscles. This fact has been substantiated by a recent study in the Pediatrics journal, which concluded that children playing video games that require continuous movement actually expended twice the amount of energy than playing a game on the TV while sitting stationary. Such exergames are good for children with short attention spans and who naturally are reluctant to indulge in sport activities like playing ball or running.


Other equipments and features found in gyms include recumbent bikes with simulators; Dance Dance Revolution, the digital dance floor that can even calculate the calories you burn in a dancing session; car racing video games that require the player to balance, much like a ski machine; and patented software exertainment packages such as NeoRacer, Yourself! Fitness, ExerStation/Kilowatt, Expresso Fitness S2, EyeToy, PlayMotion, Nintendo Wii and Gamercize, to name a few.


The most interesting part of exergames is that it is beneficial for all classes of people, not just children, even though most adults have taken the view that exergames are for children and are therefore reluctant to try them. As a result of this hesitation certain gym chains are trying to convince adults through mass marketing initiatives such as advertising and lectures. Experts feel that this reluctance is only an initial hiccup. This same reluctance occurred when computers were first introduced. As it was then, adults will slowly get used to the new methods of exercise.


So have sports video games replaced actual sports as entertainment for children? Unfortunately for the most part, the answer to this question is yes. However you do not have to let it affect the physical health of your children. While you can encourage them to exercise by buying video games that involve physical activity like Dance Dance Revolution, you can also encourage them to participate in different athletic programs by joining in; attend every one of their games, volunteer as a coach, practice in the yard with them before/after dinner, become an active part of your child’s life and you will automatically improve their overall health, as well as your own.


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