Play video games and get … fitter? That’s right. According to a number of recent studies, some video games can actually help you improve your fitness level, lose weight and get stronger and leaner.

A study published in the “Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism” journal, the main benefits come from interactive video games. This is the kind of games where things you do “in the real world” are shown on the screen. This is done through the clever use of cameras, wireless gadgets and a platform in which you stand when performing certain exercises. The first computer games console that comes to mind is the Wii Fit system from XBox -- but others are also available.

And that’s just the beginning.

The system is so effective that a number of hospitals around the country are using it rehabilitate young patients in their physiotherapy programs. In fact, kids are at the top of the list when it comes to people who will benefit from using fitness-related video games. Why? Because it allows them a chance to play a game and get some exercise at the same time. Researchers from the California State University Chico have even come up with a catchy name for it: exergaming.

What about adults? Well, those who are willing to give fitness video games a try might also find them incredibly beneficial. For starters, there’s no need to drive to the gym anymore. Whether you have been skipping it because you didn’t want to drive or work out in front of other people, the games might be the answer. Just like other home workouts, they allow you the opportunity to work on your own schedule, and as often as you want.

Finally, fitness-related video games have an added advantage: they can help convince your brain that exercising can be fun. If you’ve been avoiding the gym because you find it boring, this might be your answer. Forget riding a stationary bike for an hour while staring into empty space. Instead, try snowboarding, game challenges or a friendly game of tennis -- All virtual, of course.

Adamo, K., Rutherford, J.A., Goldfield, G.S., Effects of Interactive video game cycling on overweight and obese adolescent health. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 2010, 35(6):805-815, 10. 1139/H10-078

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Video Games and Health by Brenda Rivera-Billings, M.Sc is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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