Tuesday, August 16, 2016

From Dance Dance Revolution to Pokémon Go: How Electronic Games and Fitness Have Evolved Together into Exergaming

By: Dr. Linda Carson, CEO, Choosy Kids

In 2005, Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) was a video game designed primarily for arcade entertainment but actually became known for pioneering the concept of total body engagement in a video game. Rather than sitting with a hand-held controller on the couch, DDR required players to stand up and be the controller and score points in the game by moving their feet on a floor mat. DDR quickly became a leader in a games for health trend. It was one of the first electronic games to be looked at as a health tool by researchers, and it was used in school Physical Education classes, and even in classrooms to help students with coordination. Soon after, we saw the Wii Fit game console – marketed as a fitness tool with games that could help the player lose weight and stay fit. Unlike DDR, the Wii, made it possible for players to keep track of their fitness, weight goals and other statistics by using a platform at their feet.


Today we have the Pokémon Go app, a game that isn’t being marketed as a fitness tool (yet) but rather a game that lures players outside to get moving with their cell phones in hand. This app, combining reality with virtual reality, is not played indoors on a TV or in an arcade, because it is mobile! Pokémon Go gets families and people of all ages out of their homes and into the fresh air! So what is it with electronic games and fitness that when mixed together keep people coming back for more exercise…I mean fun? How do you keep healthy habits (created through this type of play) going when the hype of the game fades?

As someone who was involved in a ground breaking study of the use of video games for total body activity, I saw firsthand what an electronic game can do for its player’s health. Our study, led by Dr. Emily Murphy, specifically targeted children in West Virginia, a state that is consistently among the top three in the country for obesity. Our study showed that DDR can have a long-term health and financial impact on its players by reducing obesity levels and instilling better lifestyle habits at an impressionable age. Specifically, we demonstrated that DDR is an effective tool in combating obesity, inactivity, and subsequent health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles.


The University of Calgary Exergaming Research Centre and the American Council on Exercise, also state that exergaming works as a fitness tool. Their studies were focused upon adults. According to WebMD, “When used at intermediate or high intensity, exergaming can indeed improve fitness -- though some exercise games make that easier than others. A moderate 3 mph walk burns about 4 calories a minute, or 120 calories per half hour.” The good thing is that these ‘exergames’ are getting people up and moving. However, the hard part is keeping the attention of the player long enough to make this movement a healthy habit.

At least with games like Pokémon Go, it is bringing families together to participate. I have read countless stories of parents saying that they are their child’s eyes and ears for safety while playing the game and they allow their child to follow the map (another great learning experience with this game!) Other parents have praised the game saying they haven’t seen their child want to be outside this much in a long time and they are walking and running around more than ever! All great things!

When the fad or novelty of the game fade, it is up to the parents to keep the momentum going for joyful activity and healthy habits in their children. Maybe it is finding a new game that doesn’t involve any electronics, or just ask children to create something totally new. Try encouraging your family to eat healthy meals together while talking about the new habits you are creating as a family. Even if the fun of the game fades away, still try to encourage your family to get outside and get moving. Playing with your children makes memories that last a lifetime. And don’t forget, Choosy has plenty of songs and activities for you that encourage active play (indoors and outdoors)!
Have you and your family jumped on the Pokémon Go app craze? Have you noticed a difference in activity for your children? What else are you doing to encourage healthy habits and the continuation of moving forward with your family’s newly found love of getting outside and exercising?

About the Author: Linda Carson, Ed. D, is the founder and CEO of Choosy Kids, LLC, and the Ware Distinguished Professor Emerita at West Virginia University. An award winning, nationally recognized expert, Dr. Carson has devoted her career to promoting healthy preferences for young children and the adults who make decisions on their behalf. Click here to learn more about Linda.

29 comments :

  1. I think it's great that this game is bringing families together and getting them moving. I never really thought about what happens when the craze is over, so this is great information to have.

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    1. It is an awesome way for families with children of all ages to do something together!

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  2. Honestly, I see very few kids playing Pokemon Go - around here, it's all college age kids and adults. I wish I saw more kids playing especially since that is who the game is really intended for.

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    1. Maybe it is because their parents or adults that they spend their time with aren't interested so therefor the child has no idea. It is something that parents have to be into for younger children.

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  3. I think it's great that it's getting people of all ages out and about and doing some exercise!

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  4. While I haven't tried Pokemon Go or Dance Dance Revolution, I do like the togetherness aspect of each. Coming together to enjoy technology with your family, while getting up and moving offers so many benefits.

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    1. YES! Technology always gets a bad rep but in this case it is helping!

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  5. Games like Dance, Dance Revolution and Pokemon Go are welcome in my book because it keeps the kids active. You can also spend some time playing with them which makes it perfect!

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  6. Video games and mobile games seem to be the future. I'd definitely like to see more games start to involve physical activity and health.

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    1. We agree that it is the future. People want to stay active but also still love gaming.

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  7. I love games like these!!! Anything to get the kiddo moving is a win to this mama!

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  8. It's nice to read a positive take on electronic games and the newer apps on the market. I think games like PokemonGo are paving the way for all kinds of exciting interactive games, especially learning-based ones (almost like a geo-caching type of thing).

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    1. Oh good reminder about geo-caching! That is also another great example!

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  9. Cool read. We shouldn't really blame videogames whenever something bad happens around them, I know people in the industry who's been aiming to simply bring some smiles out of everyone by developing these kinds of unique features.

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  10. I think that is great when gaming can help bring families together for fitness or motivates others to get out.

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    1. Makes doing family things even more fun!

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  11. I use to love dance dance revolution! That was one of my favorites! I think I still have mine somewhere too. I need to find it for my girls! We already play Pokemon Go too! It's great for exercise.

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    1. Yes! Dust that off and see what the girls think!

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  12. I do think its good that Pokemon go is getting families out and doing something together. Although I think the dads are probably enjoying more than the kids in some cases haha

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  13. There is always birdwatching, the original Pokémon Go!

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  14. Exergaming - I like that word! I've got to introduce my little guy to DDR!

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  15. I'm pro-Pokemon Go especially because it did have me going out and walking more but also allowed me to have another common interest with my son.

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  16. I like how the technology innovates. Although I am not a big fan of Pokemon Go.

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  17. I tried dance dance revolution and Pokemon Go. I love the concept of moving.

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  18. I actually don't game...ever. haha So, I've never played either of these games although I know others who have, I prefer normal exercise.

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