The video gamers’ familiar sound of clicks and taps from their Xbox or PlayStation controller is being replaced by the sound of a fastpaced “ba-bum-ba-bum-ba-bum”—an increased heart rate.

The video game industry has been consistent in coming out with products that get gamers off the couch and use their bodies as the controllers. Dance Dance Revolution was one of the first followed by the Nintendo Wii Fit and the newest of them all: The Xbox Kinect.

Assistant professor of medical education and nutrition Dr. Susan J. Hewlings said these types of video games create interactive learning and has so far shown to be effective.

“I think it’s another learning tool, another way to get information out there. It’s a way to address the screen users in an interactive way to promote physical activity and healthy eating,” she said.

Children and adults spend large portions of their days in front of screens whether it be computer, television, cell phone or video game.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study in 2005, the average 8-year-old to 10-year-old spends 65 minutes per day playing video games. The average 11 to 14-year-old spends 52 minutes per day playing video games.

As for the general population, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project’s gadget ownership survey in August stated that 42 percent of Americans own a video game console.

The idea of interactive gaming has many different applications and can serve as a motivation factor for people to engage in physical activity.

These types of games are already used in nursing homes and adult day care centers to increase balance and help enhance the activity of daily living in elderly people.

It is also being used in the homes of families and college students. Instead of playing Call of Duty or Madden from the couch, gamers are standing up and jabbing with Wii Boxing, hula-hooping with the Wii Fit, getting down with Dance Dance Revolution or racing by actually running in place with the Xbox Kinect.

In some cases, gym memberships might be too expensive and some neighborhoods are too dangerous to exercise outside. These types of gaming devices allow people to exercise in the safety and comfort of their own home.

Another potential application for the use of interactive gaming is for physical therapy.

“I think it would make my job easier and patients would find their treatment more enjoyable and they may eventually become more compliant if they eventually see progress,” said Dr. Gerald V. Smith, associate professor and director of the physical therapy program at UCF. “I think it would be very beneficial and there is a lot of interest in it.”

According to Smith, interactive gaming is already being used in physical therapist’s clinics throughout the country. However, there has not been enough research to entirely back up the program.

“I think the whole area is very promising,” he said.

The goal of physical therapy is to get people involved in functional activities. Interactive gaming allows patients to do just that.

It also allows physical therapists to look at whether the patient would be safe in a particular environment. The program could be used at home as a self-treatment as well as in the clinic as a direct treatment technique.

“I would certainly use them as an adjunct to my treatment,” Smith said.

UCF’s athletic training program director Kristen Schellhase said there is a new trend in athletic training of using games on the Nintendo Wii for rehabilitation purposes. For example, the balancing games are useful to someone with an ankle injury. Its trendy name is “Wii -hab”.

Along with physical therapy, this new wave of video gaming can serve as a weight loss tool as well.

“There has been studies done on DDR [Dance Dance Revolution] in particular,” Hewlings said. “Active game play increases caloric expenditure. I’m all for anything that gets people’s heart rates up.” reports multiple DDR success stories including a woman who lost 40 lbs in 2 1/2 months.

According to Hewlings, college students age 18-24 are particularly vulnerable to unhealthy eating habits and weight gain. The average college student gains 4-9 lbs their first year of college.

The reason for this involves many factors which include lack of parental influence, lack of exercise, drinking, all-night study sessions, television, video games, fast food and microwavable meals such as Ramen noodles and Hot Pockets that are packed with fat and sodium.

The American College Health Association reported in 2006 that only 43 percent of students engage in moderate or vigorous activity. The outbreak of interactive gaming may be able to increase physical activity that are needed for this age.

“It shouldn’t take the place of working out. It’s just kind of an improvement versus Call of Duty,” junior pre-clinical sciences major Rebecca Glass said.

Glass uses the Wii fit for fun but does not feel that it is enough of a workout.

“I think that the new game for the Xbox with the sensor is foreshadowing something really cool and it will probably get really advanced.”

The internet allows people to gain information about exercise and nutrition more than ever.

“How do we get them to do it? This makes it fun, interactive and engaging,” Hewlings said.

Source: Central Florida Future, Video games help students stay active, by Elyssa Schwartz, contributing writer; Published: Sunday, November 28, 2010; Updated: Sunday, November 28, 2010