Tuesday, October 12, 2010

USA Today article on Exergaming!

10-12-10: This article just came out after the recent Obesity conf. down in San Diego. Check it out here.

Some colleagues of mine were featured in this article, like Drs. Barbara Chamberlin, Emily Murphy, and Bryan Haddock.

Dr. James Sallis was also featured, and here's something interesting he said about exergaming and PE:

"But Sallis isn't convinced that these activities should be included in PE classes. "Whenever possible, we want to get the kids outdoors, where they can run around more freely. We actually need to teach kids activities such as basketball, baseball, soccer, volleyball. We need to teach them teamwork."These are the kinds of skills kids need for a lifetime of physical activity, he says. "Doing some kind of exergame may be better than no PE or bad PE, but I don't think it's as good as good PE."

I respect Dr. Sallis's work with the built environment and all, but I disagree with his comments on PE. Teaching kids team sports does NOT teach the kind of skills they need for a lifetime of PA! Learning how to do a lay-up when I was in elem. school (which included a lot of standing around, waiting for my turn to do a lay-up) did NOT teach me life skills for PA. I never played JV or varsity b-ball in highschool or college, and I don't play b-ball now. But we sure spent a whole lot of time learning about these and other sports.

That's why we have the growing movement that PE4Life has started, with the late Phil Lawler. They saw that "traditional" PE was not teaching skills that could be use for PA in life after PE, so they started a movement of change in PE and thankfully, it's spreading.

Teamwork is important, and there are lots of other, more inclusive ways of teaching teamwork besides team sports. Team sports only appeal to those who are are good at it; if you're not good at that particular sport, beware! You are relegated to the bench or worse off, not picked for a team unless you're "force" onto a team. If anything, team sports turned the majority of kids OFF of being part of a team, because of these dynamics, and only appeals to the jocks and jockettes who were good.

Exergames in PE is more inclusive (even handicapped and disabled kids can perform and compete with able-bodied kids), can instill teamwork (we've done teams with the makoto, 3-kick, and they have teams with iDance, etc.), and more importantly, they can be done for LIFE!!! (Seniors are doing exergames when they've stopped playing team sports a long time ago--if they even played them as adults!).

The only point that Dr. Sallis might have over exergames is the "outdoors" point...but I'm sure PE is held indoors when we have smog alerts or it's over 100 degs...or below freezing outside, so even traditional PE can't be done outdoors all the time.

As someone said in the article, a key point to exergames is that it can meet kids where they are at, so for many patients that I see, exergames CAN take the place of traditional sports. Many of these kids won't do team sports for many reasons, but they'll play exergames, especially if we have a similar system of teams and leagues for exergames like we do for b-ball, swimming, etc.

Physiologically, the heart doesn't care if you're running down first base line, or if you're running fast on a Xavix mat. All it knows is that this person is moving their feet fast and needs more oxygen and glucose to power their leg muscles!

Once overweight and obese kids get in shape and lose the excess weight playing exergames, maybe they'll try some of the more traditional activities, sports, or even some other ones that are outside and very physically active--like paintball!!! (that's a form of a non-digital exergame). I don't believe that kids and adults who start off on exergames as their main form of PA will stay on that only. I believe that they will venture out and try other forms of PA....but that is something for future research to prove or disprove!

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