Game study aims to curb obesity - Metro US

Game study aims to curb obesity

No couches will be found near a local video game study, exergaming, aimed to curb childhood obesity through innovative intervention.

Exergaming uses video games, such as Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution, that only function via the interactive movement of the gamer, forcing users to get off their hineys.

Dwayne Sheehan, lead researcher for the five-year exergaming study at Foundations for the Future Charter Academy (FFCA) southwest Calgary location, approached the school mainly because of its grade span — kindergarten to grade 12 — giving him access to many age groups at one location.

He explained the complete study will monitor “various impacts of exergaming technology at a number of different age groups — we just happen to be starting with nine- and 10-year-olds.”

Sheenan, also assistant professor and co-ordinator of Mount Royal’s department of physical education and recreation studies, was inspired to pursue the idea of exergaming by Dr. Larry Katz, his supervisor of kinesiology PhD studies at the U of C.

Katz and Sheehan co-founded the exergaming study and completed a pilot run last year at FFCA. The first six-week cycle of real data collection started yesterday with 140 students in grades three and four.

FFCA principal educator Justin Kool said the grades chosen for the study are appropriate because he feels that’s when habits related to physical activity begin to form.

“They’ve got a good understanding that it’s not just about playing video games,” Kool said.

That is exactly the point Sheehan hopes young people will realize.

“It’s my dream that the next generation of gamers are all physically active gamers,” he said. “Inherently, kids love to move.”

The study blends the world of physical activity with technology instead of forcing one and taking away the other from today’s gadget-savvy young people.

“Sedentary video gaming is a contributor to this childhood obesity problem,” Sheehan said, clarifying exergames are an alternative to thumb-only games, not a replacement for regular physical activity.

“I can understand how there could be skeptics,” said Kool. “But, once people understand the project isn’t about video games, but about getting people up and actively moving, they get it.”

The five-year commitment with FFCA is only the beginning, said Sheehan. He expects years of further studies as technology and exergames continually evolve.

Go to ucalgary.ca/exergaming and mtroyal.ca for more information about Sheehan, Katz and the exergaming study.

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