03 April 2018

What is ‘exergaming’ and how does it work?

There's a new way to introduce sedentary kids to exercise – and even keep seniors fit.

A new way of playing video games that gets you off the sofa and into the action – has positive fitness benefits that span the generations.

"Exergaming" is an emerging fitness trend where physical activity is combined with video games, creating an interactive experience that encourages fitness and the development of cognitive and motor skills. Exergaming relies on technology that tracks body movement or reaction.

A 2014 review found that, based on data from 27 studies, a strong correlation exists between exergaming and increased energy expenditure.

Interactive physical activity

It can be a way to introduce sedentary kids to exercise and even keep seniors fit. Because it engages the mind, it also may lead to better cognitive function in your later years.

Whether simulating tennis, golf or dance, which is particularly effective at burning kilojoules, these games engage your entire body in interactive physical activity.

Exergaming has many things going for it. First of all, it's fun, and that's important if you think of exercise as a chore. Many people don't even feel like they're exercising as they play.

Studies have proven this

If you choose a game for two or more, you get the benefits of having an exercise buddy or group to encourage you. Many games allow you to start at a beginner level and increase the difficulty as you advance, providing built-in motivation.

Playing with your kids helps instil a love of exercise from an early age, and these games can go with them into adulthood. Research shows that exergaming can help kids fighting obesity, especially girls aged 12 to 15, a group that gets the least amount of physical activity, according to a study in the Journal of Sport and Health Science.

The mind-body advantages of exergaming may also extend to children with autism.

With new games being introduced all the time, the hardest decision you're likely to face is which brand of console to buy. Compare the options, and then let the fun begin.

Stay fit indoors

You don't have to invest in an expensive device to stay fit indoors. There are other ways to get active in a small space:

  • Play inexpensive games such as balloon volleyball – tie a piece of string across the room as a "net" and hit the balloon over the net.
  • Play a game of charades.
  • Dance together as a family.
  • If you don't want to join a gym, there are home workouts for all fitness levels available on Youtube.

Image credit: iStock