Nintendo’s Wii Fit helping seniors get healthy
New research by Australian scientists has found that a high protein diet may help some people lose weight and may be the key to shedding excess kilos. The scientists from the University of Wollongong say that for overweight or obese people, higher protein meals may have a subtle fat-burning effect and the glycaemic index (GI)
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While some emerging technologies can create environments that require very little physical effort, one Kansas State University researcher thinks games like Nintendo’s Wii Fit can help promote physical rather than sedentary activities for people of all ages.
“I think there is a great potential to develop ways to promote physical activity through technology,” said David Dzewaltowski, professor and head of the department of kinesiology at K-State and director of the university’s Community Health Institute. “Kids innately like to move, so I believe that there is a big future in games that use emerging technologies and require movement because the games will be enjoyed by children and also be more healthy than existing games.”
In a commentary published in the October 2008 Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews , Dzewaltowski discussed how technology is changing our everyday life and affecting our health.
Wii Fit has games that incorporate yoga, strength training, balance and aerobics. The games are interactive and require the player to physically move, which is better than nothing, Dzewaltowski said. It uses a balance board and allows gamers to simulate challenges like snowboarding down a mountain.
“Anything that gets people to move more than they have in the past is positive, but if people are trying to replace physical activity that demands more movement with the Wii, then that will be negative,” Dzewaltowski said.
He said it is difficult in a small indoor space to replicate the intensity of some real-life physical activities, though dance video games are effective at demanding physical movements that require caloric expenditure.
“The caloric expenditure demanded by an activity depends on the energy necessary to move the body’s weight to complete the task and how long you perform the task,” Dzewaltowski said.
He added that different activities demand different amounts of caloric expenditure, like playing a game of soccer, which demands much more energy expenditure than bowling or playing the outfield in baseball.
Dzewaltowski said Wii Fit can be an effective tool to create or maintain a healthy lifestyle for some people because it follows the basic principles for adhering to an exercise program, like having physical activity goals, tracking those goals and evaluating the progress.
Wii Fit measures players’ body mass index, or BMI, which is a weight evaluation based on height and weight. Dzewaltowski said this a good screening tool for adults, meaning if the game categorizes them as being overweight or obese, they should seek more information from a health professional who can better evaluate the level of body fat. However, he said the calculation is unsuitable for children.
“For children, the BMI calculation has to be expressed based on age and gender growth charts, and it doesn’t do that,” Dzewaltowski said. “Due to children’s age and gender differences in growth, the adult BMI calculators don’t work. My use of the Wii BMI calculator showed that it was inappropriate for children and would categorize children incorrectly.”
The game also gives players a Wii Fit Age, which is measured by the player’s BMI and their center of gravity and balance testing. However, Dzewaltowski doesn’t think the measurement is credible.
For personal goals, he said it is more important to focus on behaviors such as physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption rather than the game’s BMI and fitness age measurements.
Dzewaltowski said it could be healthy for gamers to solely rely on Wii Fit for exercise if they are meeting the guidelines for physical activity set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
He said future technologies should continue to promote physical activity if they make exercise enjoyable, especially for adults.
“I also believe that adults enjoy movement if they are at a fitness level where they can perform the activity comfortably,” Dzewaltowski said. “The problem is most adults have very poor fitness levels. So, I believe there is a future in developing games that include movement and demand caloric expenditure at the level of the participant.”
A study which reviewed physical activity in schools has found that school health and exercise programmes can offer benefits even if they don’t help students lose weight. The researchers from the Cochrane Library say school-based health and exercise programs offer positive outcomes despite having little effect on children’s weight or the amount of exercise they
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New research out of the University of Pittsburgh indicates that patients’ perceptions of their own health and balance have an impact on how much they walk. The study was originally published in Physical Therapy (December 2008), the scientific journal of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). “The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to investigate
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Group exercise programs, treadmill training and horseback riding can be healthy choices for children with developmental disabilities, a new review of studies concludes. With these kinds of activities, children with disorders such as autism, mental retardation and cerebral palsy can improve their coordination and aerobic fitness, according to research analyzed by Connie Johnson, PT, a
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Researchers in New Zealand say though exercise is known to be one of the essential components which improve and enhance the quality of life, it is unfortunately underused. A new study by researchers from the University of Otago says physical exercise is a valuable tool for effectively improving the quality of life with regard to
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Individuals with sleep-related breathing disorders appear to burn more calories when resting as their conditions become more severe, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery. Sleep-related breathing disorders include snoring, pauses in breathing (sleep apnea) and other conditions in which airways are partially or completely obstructed during
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