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Fitness for kids? Make it a game!

By Sarah Klein

According to guidelines set by the Department of Health and Human Services, children between the ages of 6 and 17 need at least an hour of vigorous activity a day. These days, it seems many kids gravitate more towards the couch than the playground, and tearing them away from the TV is an exercise in itself.

Luckily, there are some gaming options to get kids moving indoors. Keep in mind, however, that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one or two hours of screen time a day for kids, whether it be television, video games, or a computer.

Wii
By now, everyone’s heard of Wii Fit. With 18 different exercises, kids can choose an activity they like and work up a sweat. There’s something for everyone, from hula hoop and step dancing, to boxing and snowboarding. However, many of the exercises focus more on muscle toning and balance, not the intense cardio exercise—like playing tag on the playground—that kids truly need. For more serious workouts, there are personal-trainer based options like My Fitness Coach and Jillian Michaels’ Fitness, but these aren’t as kid-friendly.

Xbox 360
The only fitness program released specially for the Xbox 360 came onto the scene in 2004, before the Wii changed the face of fitness gaming. With exercise, diet, and motivation components, Yourself!Fitness is the total package, complete with your own virtual personal trainer. However, it never really caught on and today is often considered a rare find.

PS3
PlayStation was lagging behind in fitness programming until 2008, when British company Gamercize introduced a line of mini exercise equipment compatible with the PS3, as well as the Wii and Xbox 360. Players can use the mini equipment with any game. All they have to do is keep exercising, or else the game will pause. The most avid gamers may be so absorbed in the action on-screen that they forget they’re working out!

The dominance of the Wii as the premier fitness gaming platform is likely to get a significant boost next month with the launch of EA SPORTS Active. With over 25 calorie-burning, muscle-toning exercises and activities, daily progress reports, and virtual personal trainers, EA is promising gym-worthy results at about the cost of one month’s regular gym membership.

Of course, none of these programs is a replacement for good, old-fashioned outdoors play. But on cold or rainy days – or for particularly stubborn couch potatoes – they can be a step in the right direction.



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