When the Nintendo Wii was first released, it became the in thing to get exercise via video games. The many exergaming options included a wide range of virtual sports, dance games, and even proper aerobic/calisthenic workouts, all performed using the gaming console. Within a few years, all of the major console manufacturers had released similar platforms.
Of course, the purists mocked people who exercised using a video game. To them, there was no reason to engage in physical activity in front of your TV when you could go to the gym, run, or play sports.
But what they don’t know is that exergaming can actually be a good option for those who don’t engage in traditional exercise. In fact, according to a study out of the University of Jyväskylä, this form of digital gaming/exercise can be a great way to reduce sedentary time and encourage physical activity.
Take Pokemon GO, for example. During the game’s months-long craze, it was totally normal to see people of all ages walking for miles in order to play the game. Everyone got in on the game, which involved a lot of physical activity. After all, you had to walk around to find the Pokemon. The fact that it was a game meant people stopped focusing on the fact that it was exercise and focused on the fun they were having.
Console-based dance games are another excellent example of effective exergaming. The dance movements are simple and fairly easy to follow, but they do involve movement that can get you sweating and breathing hard. You never think about it because you’re having so much fun dancing in time with the music. A three to a five-minute song can give you a workout you’d never have gotten at a gym or running on a track.
These exergames are usually a good way to increase social well-being when they are played among friends. Families have come together to challenge each other’s dance moves or run around the park to find that high-level Pokemon. Gaming can also encourage people to meet others, leading to new social connections and relationships that would never have been possible using typical exercise methods.
Is exergaming enough to get you fit? Absolutely not. However, it can help to increase leisure-time activity, especially among sedentary gamers. The fact that the games are fun encourages people to move around more, taking their mind off the fact they’re exercising and enabling them to get into the spirit of the game. I, for one, am all for anything that gets people moving, even if it’s a video game.
1. Kari, Tuomas. “Exergaming Usage?: Hedonic and Utilitarian Aspects.” Jyväskylä Studies in Computing 260., 2017.