Exergaming – Can Modern Video Games Be a Real Form of Exercise

exercise with video gamesWe’re rooted firmly in a world where most of us are panting, corpulent adults, in desperate need of a radical lifestyle change. Kids (not surprisingly) have joined the clan too. Studies have shown that video games can spice things up for those who detest the idea of working out, by adding a little fun to the fitness mix. So, can modern video games be a form of exercise?

Exergaming (ek-ser-gey-ming)
Noun: The act of playing a video game that requires physical exertion to perform, much like conventional exercising.

In the 1980s, no one ever considered physical activity as a crucial ingredient in the recipe of life. Video games were anything but active in nature. Kids would park themselves on the couch, before engaging their already fried brains with mindless gaming. When fitness related games released in the ’80s, they didn’t do so well.

The first of its kind was Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution, a game that took dancing to a whole new level. The makers of PlayStation stepped in and took over, turning the beloved arcade game into an accessible video game, that you could play within the confines of your home. No more embarrassing dance moves in public, that’s for sure!

Because the transition from arcade to PlayStation did pretty well (with sales skyrocketing to over 3 million copies sold), other companies’ interests were piqued, thus, following in close pursuit. Nintendo released Wii Fit a couple of years after EyeToy (by PlayStation) hit the shelves in 2003. It subsequently conceived what is called today as exergaming, a portmanteau of the words ‘exercise’ and ‘gaming’. Many have voiced the question whether video games can be a form of exercise. We say, why not?

How Are Modern Video Games a Form of Exercise?
While exergaming isn’t a neoteric concept, it has gained a loyal following of fans over the years, post the 2000s. Today, we’re all about getting fit and trying to squeeze into a favorite pair of skinny jeans (or that two piece bikini lying in the back of the closet), but how staunch are we when it comes to fitness? Don’t we easily tire from the same exercise routine? Luckily for you, and today’s lackadaisical kids exergaming has been deemed an actual form of exercise.

– Frangible Promises

Many of us have uttered the same, overused, earnest promise, one too many times to exercise, follow a diet that is devoid of noxious food, and lose weight (hopefully), by the end of the year. A week into the exercise routine, all hell breaks loose laziness sets in, then dejection, and finally, you give up.

The Good News
A crazed, heart pumping video game session that lasts for a couple of hours is exactly what you need. And, you can’t wait to do it all over again! It’s the enthusiasm that counts, and not the act itself. Research proclaims that the benefits of exergaming are exponential if performed regularly, combined with a low calorie diet. Unknowingly, you are putting your body under strenuous conditions, forcing it to burn a few (if not a lot of) calories. If done habitually, the perks of such an activity are quite rewarding.

– Dwindling Health

Most of us have the proclivity to slip into an unhealthy lifestyle, where doctors strongly, but unsuccessfully, lay emphasis on how obesity will one day take over the world, one plump person at a time. Kids are increasingly growing in girth because of a sedentary lifestyle, where cafeterias too, are partly to blame for the shocking food choices available.

The Good News
Video games can help youngsters get active, by doing something they can’t tire from easily. A lot of games have the ability to keep players engaged for hours, where one’s heart rate is well above the criteria to qualify an exergame, as an exercise. How? Measure your resting heart rate by placing your first two fingers against either the ‘carotid artery’ in the neck, or the ‘radial artery’ in the wrist.

Count the heart beats produced within 10 seconds, and then multiply that number into 60. This should give your resting heart rate number per minute. After you’re done playing an exergame that requires adequate vigor, check your heart rate immediately, it should be more than half (at least) of your resting rate number. In this way, you’ll know that the activity just won itself a ‘qualified exercise’ badge. Your games should be anything that involves boxing, tennis, or dancing, since according to WebMD, these burn the highest calories.

– Whittled Waistline Dreams

All of us want bikini bods, but not working towards such a dream or throwing in some bit of effort, is just plain unfair for your body. It’s no secret that without the involvement of exercise, especially support from family/friends, a person cannot lose weight the right way. Healthy eating habits coupled with some form of physical activity is what one needs most. It’s simple, if you don’t burn more calories than how much you eat, you won’t lose weight. Even if you’re doing everything right, the equation is a stubborn stark truth.

The Good News
Exergaming just got interesting. You can include family and friends to join in, to make it a healthier and combined effort that benefits not just you, but everyone you care about. Make it a habit to perform exergaming for at least one hour every day, and you’re sure to notice a difference in your physique. Also, kids should be encouraged to play outdoors and not rely entirely on exergaming.

Boredom might eventually set in, so alternate between an actual sport (or an activity you love) and exergaming. The idea is to keep experimenting with various forms of physical activity, to give your body a great workout every time you get down to it.

The Bottom Line

You can’t substitute actual exercise for exergaming, but you can include it as a part of your routine. Help the kids stay fit, or lose the premature weight gain by including not just exergaming, but outdoor sports as well. Grownups can indulge in a good session of gaming over the weekends, while taking a break from the gym. But don’t let exergaming rule your life. While it is a great form of aerobics, it shouldn’t be substituted for the hardcore stuff.

Exergaming can do wonders for cardiovascular health, so don’t shy away from the gaming console. Involve others to take part in this form of exercise, to help them experience the highs of being physically active. The gaming consoles that work best for exergaming? Those would be the Nintendo Wii Fit, Kinect for Xbox 360, and PlayStation Move.

How Do Video Games Affect Your Heart Rate

The rush of playing video games is undeniable, whether you play single player games or multiplayer games online. This heady rush that gaming gives, has now been proven to affect the heart, albeit, with expected results.

Video games have permanently altered the way people spend their free time. Playing video games is no longer an activity exclusive to children, since many adults have become ardent gamers as well. With more intense visuals, violence, stratagems, and interactive online gaming, it should come as no surprise that video games have seeped into our everyday lives. There is no doubt about the fact that, killing zombies in ‘Left 4 Dead’, and playing the epic games of ‘Warhammer’ and ‘Call of Duty’, are tremendously challenging, and are a never ending source of adrenaline rush!

Leaving the fun aspect aside for the moment, what about the effects that video games have on one’s health? It is not something to be simply shrugged off. Which is why, this article specifically discusses how video games affect your heart rate.

Effects of Video Games on Heart Rate

A study conducted by Malena Ivarsson from Stockholm University’s Stress Research Institute has revealed that playing video games affects the heart rate significantly. The research paper titled, ‘The Effect of Violent and Nonviolent Video Games on Heart Rate Variability, Sleep, and Emotions in Adolescents With Different Violent Gaming Habits’ was published in the American Psychosomatic Medicine Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.

For the study, thirty boys between the ages 13 to 16 years were selected. The boys were divided into two equal groups. The first group, namely the high exposure group, comprised volunteers who were required to play violent video games for more than three hours a day. The second group, the members of the low exposure group, were made to play violent games for less than an hour a day.

The boys were monitored for two evenings while playing video games at their homes. Researchers monitored the volunteers for emotional, physiological, and sleep reactions. They were made to play ‘Manhunt’, a violent game, and Animaniacs, a nonviolent cartoon video game.

The study revealed that, while sleeping, the heart rates of the boys from the low exposure group were much faster after playing the violent video game, as compared to the previous night, when they were made to play the nonviolent video game.

On the other hand, the heart rates of the boys from the high exposure group lowered after playing the nonviolent game, as compared to the previous night, when they were made to play the violent video game.

The research also revealed some significant differences in the pattern of the heart rate variability (HRV) among the boys belonging to the high exposure group. The beat to beat variation in the heart rate of the high exposure boys was different, thereby suggesting more blunt reactions from their sympathetic nervous systems.

The normal heart rate of an average person is between 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). Video games that are relatively calm and played while sitting down lead to a negligible rise in one’s heart rate. However, violent video games played while sitting down, and also those that require light physical activity, tend to increase the heart rate by an average of 20 bpm. Games that require complete and vigorous body activity can increase one’s heart rate by even 75% to 100%, depending on the age.

While playing violent video games may affect the heart rate and indirectly affect our health, research has also revealed that playing active video games help burn calories, lose weight, and could become an alternative for outdoor activities in the near future.

Are Video Games Good for You

Every parent wonders whether video games are good for their kids or not. Read the article to find all the answers to your question.

Since a long time, video games have been blamed for a lot of things. Right from contributing to childhood obesity to making kids (people) aggressive, much has been talked about the harmful effects. However, new research reveals that some games might actually be good for your health. It may not sound right for most of you, but many savvy players can agree with it. But how can that be possible when all kids (of all ages) do is sit in front of their television and/or computer and play violent games. Then how can research prove it otherwise? Are video games good for your health, even after being perceived as making the youth lazy?

Effects on Eyes

Action and adventure games can, in fact, enhance vision and also help cure Amblyopia, commonly known as “lazy eye”. In Amblyopia, a person’s vision in one of his/her eye is inferior to the other. In normal Amblyopia treatment, the person would be asked to wear an eye patch over his/her good eye. However, Nottingham University researches claim that they found positive effects which can actually treat the eye in just one hour. Whereas, the eye patches takes about 400 hours to cure it.

After doing research for first person shooter (FPS) video games, University of Rochester found out that these games have positive effects on improving visual skills. The reason behind this, our brain’s capacity increases by playing the games in order to spread attention over a wide range of events taking place in the game itself. Also, playing these games can heighten the capability of visual attention and its spatial distribution.

Effects on Brain

There are so many different kinds of games being invented every day. Games that teach you new skills, yes, games do teach kids new skills, such as quick and accurate typing, understand physics of racing a car, learn about historical events, musical appreciation of classic and modern rock, understanding how to build industrial and residential zones, building transportation, flight simulation, survival skills, teamwork, geography, and so much more.

Remember playing Tetris when you were young? The game has been around for years and years, definitely one of the oldest and much loved games. Well, one fact you wouldn’t know about the game is that it can boost brain efficiency. Mind Research Network in Albuquerque had undergone a research where they took about 26 adolescent girls. They had to play Tetris for approximately 30 minutes each day, for three months straight. After three months, they found that the players had developed a thicker cortex than the ones who didn’t play. The parts of brain which demonstrated a thicker cortex were areas that scientists believe play a role in contriving complex, organized movements and forming visual, tactual, and auditory data.

Effects on Health

Let’s get back to our main question in this article and the misconception of them playing a part in increasing obesity in those who play them. Keeping these issues in mind, companies like Nintendo have invested their resources towards the evolution of video games to come up with games which can keep its players active. A research done by University of Ottawa selected Parkinson’s patients to play Nintendo’s Wii Fit for 30 minutes and Wii Sports for 15 minutes daily for 6 weeks. Researchers found that the participants could significantly improve their static balance. Such gaming consoles could help people slow up the descent of functional disabilities. The changes are supposedly related to the increase in dopamine production which gets triggered by the exercise in the games.

Would you think games like “Dance Dance Revolution” and “In the Groove” are good for health? These games are perfect examples of making players get off the couch and be active. For Wii Fit, the Wii Balance Board is used to check the weight of the players and their center of balance. Along with Wii Fit, other games by Wii lets gamers surf, ski, dance, do boxing and Cheerleading as well (that too in their own home).

Effects on Hand-Eye Coordination

It helps improve motor skills and hand-eye coordination. To prove this theory, Iowa State University study on surgeons helped reveal the real truth behind this. The surgeons were asked to play video games for 3 hours a week, which in fact, helped cut down errors in minimal invasive surgical procedures. The games helped the doctors perform their tasks faster than their colleagues who hadn’t participated in the study. After the study, specially made video game was devised for trainee surgeons to help them “warm up” before they enter the operation room.

Due to its effect on children, good or bad, more and more studies and surveys are being conducted on the subject. Hence, the concept of video games being a positive or negative effect on kids shouldn’t come as a surprise because it does improve certain skills in its players. Even pilots and astronauts get trained in video simulators to improve their flying skills, so why should video games be any different?