Friday, March 1, 2024

Fitness Tech And Exergames: Exercising With Fitness Video Games

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It is no secret that people are becoming increasingly sedentary, the rates of obesity more than demonstrate this alarming trend, and the ages at which people are becoming increasingly sedentary keep getting younger and younger. People are choosing to spend the bulk of their time sitting or lying down while they watch TV, endlessly scroll on mobile devices, or play video games as people become more accustomed to the convenience of everything being on demand at their fingertips. 

In an attempt to encourage people to get up and move more, several gaming technologies have come up with video games geared to motivate people to exercise more: Exergames. Why not take advantage of the gaming platforms, especially for prevention when trying to attract younger generations? Gaming statistics suggest that over 3.26 billion people around the world play video games, that’s a huge market. 89.5% of video game sales happen digitally, speaking to convenience, and in America alone, over $55 billion is spent on video games. 

Physical activity may need to go more digital to get people to be less sedentary. Fitness gaming can help people acquire physical skills by participating in active gaming, such as balance, improved reaction time, endurance, coordination, and speed. Activity video games encourage players to jump around and maintain balance, and this has been shown to help improve balance by up to 30% in the long term. 

You may not associate video games with fitness, but over the past decade, several developers have created games that are designed to get players of all ages off their chairs and onto their feet. Exergames may be an ideal way to help people who are largely inactive break away from sedentary habits. For starters, exergames can help them to burn more energy than they normally would and help them to establish a baseline fitness level. Exergames could be the ticket to help people to reach physical activity guidelines as they level up, that is a win-win.

Being active is important for maintaining a healthy weight, managing blood glucose levels, and reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease among other health complications. However, keeping people motivated is proving to be difficult. Exergames are unlike regular exercise videos, as they have sneaky ways to keep people coming back, and that value is in the interactivity within the game so a person can either win or lose. The sense of competition, the challenge, and satisfaction/accomplishment that is associated with it. 

While a person can compete with their own records, most often they will select to go against other people for maximum rewards which are shown on leaderboards, and there are other reward mechanisms. Exergames are highly customized to an individual user based on sensors that track movements. Completing actions/tasks gets the user points or other fun rewards. Perhaps more importantly, the majority of exergames really don’t feel like you are exercising. After all, these games were designed first and foremost to be engaging, motivating, and fun. The fact that you are getting in a workout is just a positive side effect of playing the game, and that’s the entire point – make people forget that they are exercising. 

So, you may be asking why it is so important to find ways to get people to exercise more, let’s look at the condensed short list of numbers and facts:

According to the National Institutes of Health, in America alone, nearly 1 in 3 adults are overweight, 42.4% of adults have obesity, and 1 in 11 have severe obesity. Broken down, 1 in 3 men and 1 in 4 women are obese. This trend is not just for adults, children and adolescents are also getting larger; 16.1% of American kids (aged 2-19) are overweight, 1 in 5 are obese, and 1 in 16 have severe obesity. Globally, estimates are that over 51% of the population will be obese or overweight within the next decade, this will be a jump from the 39% that currently (2023) have obesity and a drastic increase from the global obesity rate of 23.9% in 2008.

In fact, the numbers are so bad that obesity has been declared an epidemic. Not surprisingly, the obesity epidemic first emerged in Westernized countries during the 1980s. But it didn’t stop there, it kept spreading until in 1997 W.H.O. formally recognized obesity as a major public health problem with significant health and economic consequences that justified it being declared a global epidemic. 

Being overweight or obese often brings with it the possibility of developing a range of other poor health outcomes that are the “side effects” of being overweight or obese such as stroke, gallbladder disease, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, mental illness, body pain, osteoarthritis, cancer, low self-esteem, respiratory issues and lower quality of life among other unwanted conditions including premature death and all-cause mortality. 

There is no such thing as “healthy obesity” or “fat but fit”, studies show that even those with obesity and no metabolic comorbidities still face a 50% increased risk of coronary heart disease, and the increased fat mass/adipose tissue dysfunction contributes to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes as well as cardiovascular diseases.

The numbers are not great at all, meaning that we need to find ways to get people to be more active. Having fun while exercising represents one of those appealing possible ways worth exploring. The majority of people are not even getting close to the recommended physical activity levels, as demonstrated by the continually increasing rates of obesity and comorbidities among people of all ages.

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