At first glance, a statement identifying video games as a means toward achieving better health may sound like an oxymoron. However, the technology renowned for contributing to the stationary lifestyle of many Americans and ultimately contributing to both childhood and adulthood obesity now provides an option where it may contradict its former liabilities.
Video games found in the Wii operating system, for example, have contributed to physical interactiveness by players utilizing this system to participate in simulated sports such as bowling and baseball. The games found in this operating system have also been proven to increase hand-eye coordination, reflexes, and reaction time, especially in the elderly. There are other games that are specifically geared toward children as they encourage healthy lifestyles through selecting nutritious meals laden with fruit and vegetables, consuming adequate amounts of water and other health-conscientious fluids as well encouraging a physically active lifestyle. Children are impressionable and this type of interactive video game impacts them in a positive manner.
As reported by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in January 2011, there are two video games, “Escape from Diab” (Diab) and “Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space” (Nanoswarm) that have been created with the intent of lowering the risks of type 2 diabetes and obesity in children. With the ever-increasing sedentary lifestyle of Americans beginning at earlier ages, children are now more susceptible to obesity and its side effects from a very early age more than ever. These games are engaging and complex with captivating storylines intended to entertain while educating children on embracing good nutritional habits and integrating physical activity as a regular component of their daily regimen.
Adult health may also benefit from videogaming options. According to Bill Ferguson, the Editor-in-Chief of the Games for Health Journal: Research, Development and Clinical Applications, “Videogaming (It’s) is clearly a growing market. Typically the market share dedicated to health-related games is about four or five percent; one out of every twenty games has something to do with health care.”
Active-play video games are designed to encourage physical activity. The American Heart Association and Nintendo of America have surveyed video game users and obtained results indicating that active-play video games encourage individuals to participate in real-life physical activities. This is referred to as the “gateway effect” as the interactive nature of the video games encourage users to become more physically active and conscientious of their nutritional choices. As supported by findings like those above, there is a growing opportunity for active-play video games to contribute to healthy lifestyles. In May 2010, the American Heart Association and Nintendo of America joined together in a strategic partnership in order to support people in establishing healthy lifestyles through physically active play.
Within the collaborative AHA and Nintendo survey, 58 percent of people who play active-play video games have begun a new real-life fitness activity like walking, tennis, or jogging since they started playing the games, and 68 percent of the respondents indicated that they are more physically active on a regular basis since the time that they begun to play interactive video games.
Positive role models are a key player in both adults’ and children’s lives in providing them examples of healthful lifestyles. For children who may not have positive reinforcement or role models that they may emulate, video games may assist with teaching children about healthy lifestyles and sound nutritional habits. These games encompass entertainment and a goal of changing youth diet and physical activity behaviors. Diab and Nanoswarm both incorporate social cognitive, self-determination, and persuasion theories into the context of their respective content as they simultaneously entertain and educate children about healthy lifestyle choices.
The outlook for videogaming is optimistic in that playing interactive video games will ultimately help persuade people to increase their physical activity and make lifestyle selections that are healthy and nutritionally sound.
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This guest post was submitted by Big Fish Games. Big Fish provides online games for your PC, Mac, mobile phone, or tablet computer. Games are available in ten languages and new games are launched daily. Visit Big Fish to find a great online game that’s sure to entertain.
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