Many parents worry about the amount of time that their children spend playing video games, and in particular, that their children are not getting enough exercise. Well, it could well be that their worries and concerns are over, with the increasing popularity of video games and peripherals which actively encourage physical exercise.
Recently there has been an increase in demand from children and young teenagers for dance mats. These are interactive mats which have built in sensors, the idea being that the players have to move, dance, jog, jump and twist to music, accomplishing as many moves as quickly as possible, and following set dances. This puts them in direct competition with their friends, and of course, they spend a great deal of time jumping, twisting and being energetic. Some people would argue that getting exercise in this way is better for their health than going out on the streets, cycling along busy roads or going off to parks, where they meet with all sorts of risks and dangers.
In addition to dance mats, Nintendo has very recently launched a new sports peripheral, that acts as a baseboard – not dissimilar to a small surfboard. By balancing on this, a number of activities can be carried out – from basic stepping, to surfing and snowboarding, and even yoga. The massive number of incredibly sensitive sensors built into the board mean that the computer can detect the balance, pressure and movement of a player, and either replicate that using a three dimensional avatar on the screen, or provide feedback or an assessment on the level of skill, level of fitness or level of ability at a particular activity.
Again, children have a natural competitiveness in them, and this can be against themselves as much as against their friends. Often these days schools are not keen to engage children in competitive sports, and many schools have actively opted out of teaching competitive activities in the curriculum. However, children do have a natural need to try to be better, either than their past performance or against someone else – and whether that is a friend or a computer generated avatar does not always matter. Getting physical exercise in this way means that not only are your children getting a good dose of healthy exertion, but very often they are being taught how to improve their skills, and carry out warming exercises and techniques to help them.
Clearly computers are unlikely to replace the fresh air and benefits of going outdoors and running around on a sports field, or cycling through the countryside, but we also have to be realistic and accept that, whilst these activities might well have been possible and safe a generation or two ago, children are at far greater risk today, and so one way in which they can be helped is to use these games which provide them with fun and entertainment, as well as exercise.
As with all things – the key is striking a reasonable balance between types of exercise, and types of games.