It’s finally happened. Just when parents thought it was safe to tell their kids how bad video games were for their health, toy manufacturers turned the tables and started making games that can actually help them get fit.
As kids have become increasingly more obsessed with their PlayStations, Xboxes, and Game Cubes, parents have become increasingly more concerned that their children’s fitness was the real price being paid for all of this technology. After all, the American Obesity Association says that a little over 30 percent of all children ages 6 to 19 are overweight and more than 15 percent of them are obese.
Are parents who indulge their kids’ desire for the latest technological creation guilty of sentencing their offspring to a lifetime as overweight adults? Not any more. With the latest generation of interactives, kids can play their video games and have their health too.
Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) was the first of the interactive games designed to get kids up on their feet. The premise behind the game is a simple one: pulsating music combined with the opportunity to innovate on the dance floor, a kind of 21st Century Saturday Night Fever. Players must match their dance steps with the flashing arrows on the screen while keeping up with the beat of the music.
Players dance on top of a sensor pad, as they follow on-screen visual cues to the beat of a popular song. Anyone with a home gaming system can buy mats and play. Even if you don’t have a gaming system, your kids can still get into the groove. There is a TV Dance Pad that connects directly to your television.
Log on to http://www.ddrgame.com/faq.html to find out which Dance Dance Revolution game is compatible with your child’s gaming system or with your television.
If your child loves playing "first person shooter" games with his or her keyboard and mouse like the ones included in the popular Call Of Duty™ series, then s/he will love GameRunner. This is a treadmill for playing first person shooters.
The GameRunner plugs into your computer’s USB port and it functions as a keyboard and mouse. The controller is a set of handlebars that the player steers and aims as they walk around. If the player walks slowly, they move around the game slowly; if they walk quickly, the pace of the game speeds up. The game isn’t available for purchase yet; but if you log on to http://www.gamerunner.us/form.html, you can leave your email address and the company will contact you as soon as it can be purchased online.
The EyeToy Kinetic exercises your child’s body and mind. Designed to plug into the PlayStation 2, the EyeToy Kinetic comes with a small video camera that sits on top of the television. That little camera becomes the transport that makes your child the star of his/her very own video game.
Body movement controls the game as floating objects sail across the screen and the kids punch or kick them. Ranges of motion are shown on the screen and your child tries to match them. The closer they come, the better the workout.
You can get more information about the game if you log onto http://www.eyetoykinetic.com/en_GB/index.html.
Then of course there's Nintendo's new console, the Wii. Players manipulate objects onscreen with a unique input device containing motion-sensing technology. Called the Wii Remote, the device allows players to mimic real world motions and have those actions acted out in the game.
Swing the remote like it was a baseball bat and the player onscreen will take a swing. One Wii enthusiast recently conducted what he called the "Wii Sports Experiment," claiming that that by adding 30 minutes a day of game-playing to his normal routine, he was able to lose nine pounds over the course of six weeks.
Clearly, this new generation of fitness aids is not your grandma’s exercise system. So forget about Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons, and head out to the nearest electronics store to get the hottest new workout system for your kids, a gaming console.
Reviewed by Dr. Manny Alvarez
For more great information on living healthy through every decade of life, click here to check out Dr. Manny's book The Check List (Harper Collins, 2007).
Dr. Manny Alvarez is the managing editor of health news at FOXNews.com, and is a regular medical contributor on the FOX News Channel. He is chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Additionally, Alvarez is Adjunct Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City.