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Should This Fit Into Your Physical Routine?

October 22, 2009
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While some emerging technologies can create environments that require very little physical effort, one Kansas State University researcher thinks games like Nintendo's Wii Fit can help promote physical -- rather than sedentary -- activities for people of all ages.

According to David Dzewaltowski, professor and head of the department of kinesiology at Kansas State and director of the university's Community Health Institute: "Kids innately like to move, so I believe that there is a big future in games that use emerging technologies and require movement because the games will be enjoyed by children and also be more healthy than existing games."

In a commentary published in a recent issue of Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, Dzewaltowski discussed how technology is changing our everyday life and affecting our health.

Wii Fit has games that incorporate yoga, strength-training, balance and aerobics. The games are interactive and require the player to physically move, which is better than nothing, said Dzewaltowski.

(Meanwhile, for older adults, Watermark University at Logan Square is offering a free session in "The Wide World of Wii," Nov. 3, at 11 a.m.)

"Anything that gets people to move more than they have in the past is positive, but if people are trying to replace physical activity that demands more movement with the Wii, then that will be negative," he said.

The professor added that it is difficult in a small indoor space to replicate the intensity of real-life physical activities, though he did say that dance video games are effective at demanding physical movements.

"The caloric expenditure demanded by an activity depends on the energy necessary to move the body's weight to complete the task and how long you perform the task," explained Dzewaltowski.

Waist of Effort?

He added that different activities demand different amounts of caloric expenditure, like playing a game of soccer, which calls for much more energy expenditure than, for example, bowling or playing the outfield in baseball.

Dzewaltowski said that Wii Fit can be an effective tool to create or maintain a healthy lifestyle for some people because it follows the basic principles for adhering to an exercise program, such as having physical activity goals, tracking those goals and then evaluating the progress.

Wii Fit measures players' body mass index, or BMI, which is a weight evaluation based on height and weight.

Dzewaltowski called it a good screening tool for adults, meaning that if the game categorizes them as being overweight or obese, they should seek more information from a health professional, who can better evaluate the level of body fat.

He did note that the calculation is unsuitable for children.

The game also gives players a Wii Fit Age, which is measured by the player's BMI, and their center of gravity and balance testing. However, Dzewaltowski doesn't think that's credible.

For personal goals, he said that it's more important to focus on health-related behaviors, such as regular physical activity, and daily fruit and vegetable consumption, rather than the game's BMI and fitness age measurements.

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