Exercise, Lose Weight With 'Exergaming'

New 'active' video games combine body movement with gaming skill

By Star Lawrence
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD

As the beeps and whistles emanate from the family room, are you afraid Junior is going to develop thumbs the size of bananas and a belly to match?

According to Judith Sherman-Wolin, exercise specialist with the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition and author of Smart Women Do Dumbbells, dietary guidelines may come and go, but the one constant is exercise. Over half of Americans don't get enough (now pegged at 30 minutes to an hour a day), and a quarter of us are total taters.

But -- get this -- what if playing video games did provide some exercise? Some do! It's a new trend called "exergaming" or "exertainment."

The jam-packed hit of this year's Consumer Electronics Show was a "Cardio PlayZone," featuring some of the new workout and movement video contraptions.

Dance Dance Revolution

DDR, as its many aficionados hiply call it, runs on the Xbox platform. This started out as an arcade game, played on a floor display sort of like an amped-up Twister. The system is loaded with catchy tunes and can be calibrated to different levels of intensity as the players dance to the pattern, either individually or competitively. When the manufacturer, Konami of Japan, migrated it to PlayStation in April of 1999, 3 million copies flew off the shelves.

"I am familiar with DDR," Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise, tells WebMD. "My four boys play it. It can be strenuous and can really get your heart rate up. It has different levels of intensity." (Reportedly, there is even a module for the Lawrence Welk -- make that Rod Stewart -- set.)