Exergaming for Exercise and Good Health

Video games are often blamed for sedentary behaviors, which increase cancer risk. And although many video games do promote couch surfing, recent years have seen advances in video-game technology that have enabled people to get up off the couch and physically immerse themselves in various gaming experiences.

This immersion has been made possible through the advent of peripherals like the Wii Balance Board and Kinect for the Xbox 360. Today, there are a plethora of exergaming titles, which blend exercise with gaming for a bit of fun, enabling you to try your hand at everything from baseball to Zumba.

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily, and the American Cancer Society recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity weekly. Some people have questioned whether exergaming provides enough intensity to qualify as physical activity, but a recent study has shown that it does. In the study, participants played various exergames 30 minutes a day for five days. Even though they got to choose their intensity, they burned an average of 1,005 calories, which is enough to meet the American College of Sports Medicine recommendations for weekly energy expenditure.

In addition to being a great way to infuse some fun into your physical activity regimen, exergaming provides feedback on your progress. So, whether you dance, yoga, box, or throw a virtual javelin, you’ll know where you stand and get an idea of how many calories you’ve burned. You may even be able to track stats like your weight and body mass index, which is something no exercise video can provide.

Exergaming also can serve as a much safer option when your white blood cell count is low from your cancer or its treatments. During such times, you should avoid the gym and other public venues as much as possible because of your susceptibility to infection. But this doesn’t mean you need to remain bored at home or glued to your couch. Exergaming can turn your home into a virtual gym, bowling alley, golf course, disco, or whatever venue you desire.

Because exergaming can also provide a gentle physical activity experience, many rehabilitation facilities have incorporated exergames into their programs to help address physical limitations, facilitate recovery after surgery, or retrain the brain after a disabling event (such as a stroke). The findings have largely been positive, so if you’re working to get back on your feet after cancer surgery and your doctor has cleared you for activity, exergaming may be a good way to ease in. Some studies have even shown that engaging in exergaming can help fight off depression.

If you have a video-game console at home, don’t hesitate to give exergaming a try. Who knows? You may just become so immersed that you surpass your daily 30-minute requirement in the blink of an eye.

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