Scoring Points, Staying Active and Burning Calories through Videogames
President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition teams up with gaming industry to tout health benefits of active-play videogames
Photo by Andy Le
Students from Walker-Jones Education Campus play an active-play videogame Monday during the launch of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Active Play Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+) Challenge and demonstration of active-play videogames.
Photo by Andy Le
On Monday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Dominique Dawes, an Olympics gymnast, watch Walker-Jones Education Campus students exercise to an active-play videogame.
Photo by Andy Le
A Walker-Jones Education Campus student plays an active-play videogame Monday during the launch of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Active Play Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+) Challenge and demonstration of active-play videogames.
When kids sit down in front of their videogame consoles to blast away at aliens and enemy soldiers, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition hopes they’re also blasting away calories by playing active videogames.
On Monday, members of the council joined US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and representatives from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) at Walker-Jones Education Campus in Ward 6 to launch the Active Play Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA+) Challenge and highlight active videogames as one way to help Americans live more active lives.
“This is just one way we want kids to be more active,” said Shellie Pfohl, executive director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition at Monday’s event. “We still want them to go outside and play … but we know kids are spending 7.5 hours a day in front of a screen. We want more of that time to be active.”
At Walker-Jones, fitness council members, such as Olympians Michelle Kwan and Dominique Dawes and tennis legend Billie Jean King, joined Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA, to play active videogames with students and demonstrate the connection between the games and physical activity.
Fitness council members touted videogames as a way to meet the objectives of PALA+, which has enlisted 11.7 million Americans to engage in 60 minutes of exercise a day (30 minutes for adults), at least five days a week for six out of eight weeks. PALA+ also has a nutrition component that requires participants to add a weekly healthy eating goal and build upon those goals during their six-week exercise regimen.
David Hilmy, physical education teacher at Walker-Jones EC, said active-play videogames serve as a fun transition from sedentary to active lifestyles that involve outdoor exercise.
“There is a large part of the population that just sits at home,” Hilmy said. “If this gets that population active, then I’m all for it.”
Heather Holaday, program manager of Health and Physical Fitness for District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS), said all high schools and several middle schools in DCPS already use an interactive digital platform called HOPSports that combines physical activity, education and entertainment.
With a large video screen and interactive pads, students of all athletic abilities and conditioning levels can participate in HOPSports and improve their health through dance, martial fusion (such as kick boxing), yoga and pilates. And in early March, Holaday accompanied a physical education class from Sousa Middle School to demonstrate the new classroom edition of Dance Dance Revolution for National Health Through Fitness Day.
“Videogames are what kids are into,” Holaday said, noting that schools can use interactive fitness programs to get students warmed up for the school day or introduce different exercises in PE class. And, she said, the games have great graphics and music to keep kids interested. “There are all sorts of ways of using it … and this shows there are different ways of being active.”
Rasheed Mustapha Jr., 11, a sixth-grader at Walker-Jones EC, has all the latest videogame systems and can play up to an hour of videogames during the weekdays and longer on the weekends if he maintains high grades.
He said he thinks active-play games can help kids become more active and physically fit. Those games are fun and you can really work up a sweat playing video sports. But, he added, there’s no substitute for the real deal.
“Some kids just stay in the house and play videogames anyway, so I think it’s good,” Mustapha Jr. said. “But a videogame is not real. They [game characters] can look like you, but they’re not really you. In real games, I’m showing what I can do and not just what [my character] can do.”