How Video Games Are Helping Kids Lead Active Lifestyles
It’s easy to assume that video games are popular with kids, but many people don’t realize just how popular they really are. About 91% of kids in the U.S. play video games on a regular basis. From ages 2-17, more kids are gamers than ever before, as access to a variety of games and platforms to play them is easier than ever.
Video games often get a bad reputation, especially when it comes to kids playing them for hours on end. What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you think about a child playing a video game? Maybe you’re picturing a kid sitting on a couch, too close to the television, with a bag of potato chips nearby.
Gaming is often associated with laziness and a lack of productivity. And it’s true that some games do require players to do nothing but sit and travel through a story or try to beat some kind of competition. However, the face of gaming is changing, and some video games are taking active steps to help kids lead more active lifestyles.
Because of the popularity of video games, creators who are taking this initiative can help to fight the childhood obesity epidemic, and so much more, simply by making a few changes to something most kids already love.
The Obesity Epidemic and How It’s Affecting Kids
America has an obesity problem, especially when it comes to our kids. According to the CDC, 13 million children in the U.S. are currently dealing with obesity. That can lead to a variety of different health issues, including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Respiratory issues
While there are many underlying factors that can cause obesity, it’s often as simple as not getting enough exercise and following a poor diet. Because video games are often associated with inactivity, it’s easy to point fingers and place a lot of blame on them, especially when it comes to how frequently kids play them.
It’s true that not all video games are created equally. As stated above, some do require long periods of sitting or staying put in order to play them. Sitting for long periods of time can be harmful to your health. Not only does it contribute to obesity (thanks to the low calorie burn), but it can also create issues with veins and circulation. Sitting too often each day can also contribute to health conditions like heart disease and depression.
So, if kids are sitting for hours on end playing games, they’ll end up being at a greater risk of childhood obesity.
The good news? The gaming industry is taking positive steps toward changing the negative stigmas associated with gamers and laziness.
Games That Get Kids Off the Couch
Because inactivity is such a problem, some developers have started to create video games to get kids moving. Sometimes referred to as “exergames,” they are video games that require a player to get up and move as a form of exercise exercise, and they provide an element of fun, so a child is more likely to stick with it.
Most major game companies have gotten on board with different types of exergames. Nintendo introduced Wii Fit back in 2007, and they are still producing games designed to promote a healthy lifestyle, including Just Dance and Nickelodeon Fit. Not only do these games get kids up and moving, but like most other video games, they keep score and track progress. Players have to reach a certain “goal” to move on, or beat their friends’ score if they’re playing together.
In 2018, Microsoft’s XBox partnered up with FitBit to offer personalized workout programs, coaching, and more. Popular video game producer EA Sports has jumped on board to help gamers stay fit, too, by offering interactive sports games for different consoles. EA Sports Active 2 actually includes an on-screen heart monitor, which is the first of its kind in the gaming world.
Of course, you can’t talk about the world of fitness without bringing up Nike. The sneakers and apparel giant has created training games in the past for different consoles, but they’ve also connected their brand to a more interactive experience. Because the company is known for their shoes, they’ve started to offer customers the chance to try on shoes and take them for a “run” on a treadmill hooked up to a video game. For sneaker-heads and gamers alike, it’s a unique way to link up these two categories, but it’s also a great way to get kids who are interested in the Nike brand moving.
Video Games and Health
Video games are doing much more than shaking the stigma of laziness. They’re also helping with the overall health and wellness of the people who play them frequently – including kids!
Remember that stereotypical bag of chips you pictured next to a gamer earlier? What if we told you video games could actually help to improve a child’s diet, rather than trash it? Kids and adults alike can struggle with dietary issues that might cause health problems, such as GERD. These conditions often require dietary changes and better lifestyle choices to keep symptoms at bay. So, some companies are using video games as a way to help people make those changes easier. In 2015, a diet video game was created to help people with negative and positive food association. It may have been a simple design, but the results showed that the game (along with food journaling) may have helped people who played it to lose weight and avoid “bad” foods.
Video games are also being used as teaching tools. Everything from a Minecraft education edition to online sudoku can be used to help kids in school. While they aren’t going to replace traditional textbooks and resources anytime soon, they are great learning supplements.
So, it’s time to drop the negative stereotypes surrounding video games once and for all. When you choose the right ones for your child, you can help them to lead a more active lifestyle and make better, healthier choices that will stick with them well into adulthood.