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Video Games Get Healthy

By Michael Connolly

Once blamed for rising obesity rates and producing a generation of couch potatoes, a large segment of the video game market is now being embraced by the medical profession as a major contributor to child and adult well-being. That’s health and fitness games – a sector that accounted for over $2 billion of worldwide  video game sales over the last 18 months and one which shows no sign of slowing down.

The ability of video games to get players up off the couch and moving can be traced back to dance games, such as Konami’s Dance, Dance Revolution and Roxor Games’ In The Groove. But these were primarily arcade games, played by kids more for the challenge of hitting the right step routines than any healthy side effects.

Video games as a fitness aid really took off with the introduction of the Wii game console in 2006, and particularly with the release of Nintendo’s Wii Fit game in early 2008. Wii Fit has since sold over 18 million copies worldwide and has spawned a host of imitators across all the major gaming platforms.

With health and well-being high on the curriculum in most schools, the trend towards healthier gaming has not gone unnoticed by educators. Dr. Michael Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, which fosters innovation in children's learning, has just released a report looking at how digital games can play a beneficial and educational role in health care. "The White House should launch a national initiative to promote research and development of proven games," said Levine.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, whose mission is to improve the health and healthcare of all Americans, has also called for a public engagement campaign supported by the president, Congress and the federal agencies to teach parents, teachers and health providers about the healthy side of gaming.

Meanwhile the videogame developers and publishers are convinced that healthier gaming is here to stay. Electronic Arts recently launched EA Sports Active with a multi-million dollar marketing budget, and this follows closely on the heels of Ubisoft’s Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout and similar titles.

Even the tough economy is helping out. With city gym memberships costing as much as $100 per month, a one-time payment of $60 or less for your own private work-out regime looks like the bargain of the year!

Comment by Rena Hecht, posted 7/24/2009, 8:41 PM:

What do you think of Wii Fit for kids' use? I was pretty impressed with it...
Comment by Alex Henning (kimaso.com), posted 7/6/2009, 3:55 PM:

Playing video games has already been shown to be good for your brain, hand eye coordination (http://exilelifestyle.com/education/play-tetris-achieve-dreams/), and now health too.
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