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Exercise, Lose Weight With 'Exergaming'

New 'active' video games combine body movement with gaming skill.

Exergaming: Main Players and New Contenders continued...

Medina reports on testing a treasure hunt-style game in Boston. "We walked two hours all over downtown Boston," he tells WebMD, "going from one landmark to another, looking for answers" to clues provided by the game, which then tracked how far the gamers had walked. "It was mobile, it was exercise, it was a game -- all combined in one."

It's that feeling that you're playing a game -- not working out -- which is at the heart of exergaming's popularity. "We look at exergames as stealth exercise," says Medina. Whether a player fires up a dance game or a boxing app, they're "getting exercise without realizing it," Medina says. And studies show that given the choice between active or passive exercise games, players tend to choose active ones.

But do gamers stick with this 'stealth exercise' any better than they do more conventional workouts?

Well, "even video games can get boring after awhile," says Medina, who thinks a key to long-term compliance is creating exergame leagues, tournaments, and scholarships, just as we have for swimming, running, and other activities.

"We want to keep the games interesting and entertaining," says Medina, who is aiding in the development of the National Active Gaming League. "Once you have meets, team mates, and competitions kids -- and adults -- become a lot more invested and, as with conventional exercise, less likely to give up."

Exercise Games: Should You Try Exergaming?

The people critical of exergames haven't played them, Medina says, adding that after giving your all to a bicycle or dance game, "I can guarantee you you'll be sore the next day."

Although the pros acknowledge that a set of video game tennis won't give you the same workout as the real thing, they do agree that exergaming can be an important -- and enjoyable -- part of an overall aerobic exercise program.

"Exergaming has the potential to be a safe and effective tool for maintaining or improving cardiovascular fitness," if the right games and options are selected, write researches at the American Council on Exercise.

Whether it's boxing, biking, or dancing games, the conclusion on exergaming by those who should know -- health and wellness professionals -- is this: It sure beats sitting around.

Reviewed on September 19, 2011
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