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  Back to Sports Corner Exercise for the Nintendo Generation

Dance Dance Revolution
DDR
  Nintendo® WiiTM
Nintendo Wii
From www.onnintendo.com, June, 2007

Using video games to encourage more exercise seems like a great way for parents to feel less guilty about their kids playing video games everyday after school. Companies have been looking for ways to get kids off the couch and moving more for years. There are a number of games, new and old, that have attempted to bring video games and exercise together.

One of the first to come out in 1991 was Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The Exertainment System claims the first truly interactive system that combines video entertainment with aerobic exercise. Life Fitness, a popular fitness equipment company, teamed up with Super Nintendo to produce a stationary bike with an interactive game called Mountain Bike Rally. A major problem with this game and others is the lack of appeal to a huge audience, not to mention a suggested retail price of $3,500.

Dancing to Fitness

More recently, a popular game called Dance Dance Revolution or DDR is found at many video game rooms in malls, boardwalks, and resorts across the country. This game, using 1-4 players shown in the picture below features over 1,000 songs comes equipped with dance pads with arrows panels (left, right, up, and down). These panels are pressed using the player's feet in response to arrows that come into view on the screen in front of the player. The arrows are synchronized to the beat of the music. The faster the song the more difficult it becomes. A slower song can be used of beginners while faster songs for advanced players. A player's success is determined by his or her ability to position and time the steps to the arrows while their favorite song is playing.

DDR has become so popular that a home version was made for under $300 that works with the TV. DDR became the main attraction at parties for kids and parents were just happy they were physically active.

A New Kind of Video Game

Today's version of Nintendo is called Wii (pronounced "we"). A unique feature is the wireless controller which can be used as a handheld pointing device detecting motion in three dimensions. The technology uses a motion-sensitive device requiring the player to hit a tennis ball or swing at a baseball coming at them from the TV. A sensor sits on top of the TV that communicates wirelessly with the remote control. The interactive game is called Wii Sports. This is a set of five sports, tennis, baseball, bowling, golf, and boxing. Participants use the remote to imitate actions in the sports mentioned above. Wii Health Pack is a new series being developed to encourage family members to play together. Studies show that exercising together significantly increases the chances of sticking to an exercise program. Having competitive games through Wii Sports may be the answer to get kids off the couch and burn a few calories.

At the time this article was written Wii, retailing for $250, was in high demand. Popular stores such as Best Buy, Circuit City, and Computer First were sold out. Each store had no idea when there would be new inventory. In fact, a cashier at Computer First said they cannot even give a date when new inventory will come in due to a recent burglary targeting Wii units.

The International Sports Sciences Association, a teaching institution and certification agency for fitness trainers, conducted a study of video games in January 2007 and found that systems such as the Wii and "exergames" such as Dance Dance Revolution can improve people's fitness and encourage them to exercise.

Hopefully, this new interactive Nintendo will encourage kids and families to exercise each time they play the game. As with any exercise insulin needs may need to be adjusted for kids having diabetes.

Rick Philbin, MBA, M.Ed., ATC

June 2007

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