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Health and fitness: Video game simulations don’t replace exercising

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By Kent Pegg

I’m sure that many of you purchased video game systems over the holidays and have been enjoying playing them.

A lot of you may have tried the exercise games that are available too. But are you really exercising or are you just playing a game?

While it’s better to play a somewhat active video game rather than play one while sitting on the couch, recent studies show that the exercise games aren’t really capable of improving, or even maintaining, your current level of health and fitness.

A 2009 study by the American Council on Exercise looked at the Wii Fit games. By measuring the test participants’ heart rates, oxygen uptakes and ratings of perceived exertion, the study concluded that none of the available games were “sufficient enough to maintain or improve cardiovascular endurance as defined by the American College of Sports Medicine.”

In fact, the six games studied averaged calorie burning of only 4.2 calories per minute. That’s fewer calories burned than when golfing, playing ping-pong, walking at a moderate pace or riding a horse.

Now, if you’re playing the games and continuing with a good exercise program where you’re getting your heart rate up and increasing your muscle strength, then there’s no problem. But if you’re spending your time in front of the television and not in the gym, you’re going to see a continued decrease in your level of health and fitness.

Even worse, the games could be creating a destructive mindset in many Americans, especially our children. If we convince ourselves that video games are really exercise, we’ll allow ourselves to think that we’re pursuing a healthy lifestyle in front of the television. That will likely lead to even higher levels of both childhood and adult obesity. Over 300,000 lives are cut short each year due to obesity and its effects and billions of dollars are spent providing health care for people who have weight-related health problems.

What we need to get people to understand is that health and fitness requires effort and commitment. Too often we seek the easy way to achieve the most important things in our lives, our health and fitness. The only real way to get and stay in shape is to work for it.

That can be easier than you think. Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio workouts per day can equal over 30 pounds of weight loss in a year. Combine that with weight training to make you stronger and stretching for flexibility and you’ll achieve that healthy and fit body you’ve always wanted.

Remember to enjoy those games but keep working out to get and keep your body in shape. It may take a little work to do it the right way, but that’s the only way for you to reach your health and fitness goals.

Kent Pegg is a certified personal trainer and the owner of the Los Alamos Fitness Center.  If you have any questions about the information you can call him at 662-5232.