Fitness in the Digital Age

Great news for all of us girlie-girls (and girlie-boys): fitness has finally gone non-competitive and individual, plus funner and cooler than ever! Or at least that’s where it’s headed…

Dance_revolution The New York Times reports on the growing popularity — even in school gyms — of the video-exercise game Dance Dance Revolution. The LA Times calls it “exergaming” — the blending of video games with workouts. Lights and action, and a video game challenge that takes a lot of body movement to accomplish. Loud music and smiles. Sweating without suffering. Not surprisingly, lots of kids find this stuff “more fun than regular PE.”

And do you realize what this means? Perhaps the end of decades of gym humiliation for the geeks and wimps, the kids who always got picked last and never once got slapped on the back, except as a taunt. (Who me, bitter ?)

Overheard in the NYT:
“Traditionally, physical education was about team sports and was very skills oriented,” said Chad Fenwick, who oversees physical education for the Los Angeles Unified School District, where about 40 schools now use Dance Dance Revolution. “What you’re seeing is a move toward activities where you don’t need to be so great at catching and throwing and things like that, so we can appeal to a wider range of kids.”

A reader recently commented here about what a @#$! struggle it can be to get interested in exercise when you never really acclimated to it growing up — quite possibly because gym class was such a negative experience for so many kids who weren’t the naturals.

I’m grinning like a kid myself thinking how much more fun it must be to do your own thing to the music up on that game platform. Sure, some kids are better at it than others, but it’s not about making the all-stars. It’s about “getting more and more people involved and getting them to see exercise doesn’t have to be a chore,” according to a spokesman for Bally Fitness, which is slowly bringing the DDR games into its clubs in the kids areas. Nothing like it specifically for adults yet, but mark my words: we’ll all be Exergaming soon.

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12 Responses

  1. EmilyS
    EmilyS May 10, 2007 at 6:56 am | | Reply

    Yahoo! This is music to my ears. I have to say gym was my least favorite class in school. I am not a natural athlete, so gym class was just embarassing. I am not competative, so I didn’t care if my team didn’t win, but I don’t like being contrasted with those who were more adept. It is a shame that it discouraged me from being active. I prefer going on a hike, or just putting on some music and dancing around my living room. As I progressed through school, teachers became more focused on accomodating different learning styles, but it didn’t trickle down to the gym class. They should have been fostering life-long fitness habits, rather than making sure that I knew the rules to european handball or could climb a rope.

  2. Maureen
    Maureen May 10, 2007 at 10:56 am | | Reply

    Amy,
    My type 1 son has always been active, but rainy days etc… when he can’t get out his numbers tend to go upwards. We got a DDR for his xbox a while ago and he loves it, plug in the pad, stick in the disc and you’re off…..

  3. Runehawk
    Runehawk May 10, 2007 at 1:51 pm | | Reply

    Just thought I’d mention: ‘Dance Dance Revolution’ 1&2 is *already* available on Xbox; the controller is a pad that you place on the floor. Works pretty well, actually; and it has a fitness function that estimates how many calories you’ve burned while you play! -r

  4. Matt Stuhff
    Matt Stuhff May 10, 2007 at 2:38 pm | | Reply

    I don’t think I’m alone when I say that this worries me as much as it gives some people hope. The social interaction of Phys. Ed., whether or not you were good, was a positive thing.

    Team interaction is a skill thats sorely lacking in kids who are inundated with solo games. Hopefully these games, at the very least, involve games which also require team play, whether with someone right next to you, or someone across the globe from you.

    I have also read that constant interaction with a 2D representation of life (ie games), can lead to the detriment of spatial intelligence as well.

  5. AJ
    AJ May 10, 2007 at 3:08 pm | | Reply

    I was playing DDR on my Playstation 2 in 2004, so it’s not exactly new, but I am glad it is being accepted as a way to get kids some exercise.

    A couple comments:
    First, it’s far from non-competitive. The game is very competitive.

    And for Matt Stuhff’s concerns:
    Team interaction? Yeah I’ll give you that, but given the health and weight problems with the youth these days, any activity that gets them moving is good in my opinion. Let’s face it, giving a kid a ball doesn’t entertain them like it used to.

    And as for the concern about spatiial intelligence… you clearly don’t know what DDR is.

    You stand on a pad with 4 large arrow buttons (in front of, behind, and to your sides). Arrows scroll across the screen and you must step on the matching pad as the arrow crosses a point on the screen. This requires GREAT amounts of coordination and timing. If anything, this game will do WONDERS for childrens’ coordination and “spatial intelligence”

  6. AmyT
    AmyT May 10, 2007 at 3:13 pm | | Reply

    Have to agree with AJ here. I know the game is competitive (what game isn’t?), but not in the same “star jocks” way of old.

    And with all the complex directions/dimensions involved, I am SURE this is good for “spatial intelligence” — which certainly sounds like something our next generation will need a lot of :)

  7. Chris
    Chris May 11, 2007 at 6:06 am | | Reply

    I don’t understand why everything always has to be fun and entertainment. Somethings just have to get DONE! Exercise, espeicially for diabetics, is one of those things. Instead of teaching kids/adult to discipline the mind, we provide new forms of entertainment. If you can find the time to exercise when it is a game, you can find the time when it is work. What about teaching our kids that some things are just plain HARD and that overcoming a challenge is important to their development.

  8. AmyT
    AmyT May 11, 2007 at 7:09 am | | Reply

    Chris,
    Empirical evidence shows that people don’t stick with exercise when it is not fun.

    Besides, why shouldn’t we make things fun for ourselves if we have the ability to do so, and the fun does not detract from the results? Work can be fun, too, if you like what you’re working on.

  9. Beth
    Beth May 11, 2007 at 10:55 am | | Reply

    We love DDR! Our daughter was dx’d with DM1 last year in June. During the summer she had no problem keeping active, but things got challenging in the winter time. We bought DDR for her for Christmas along with a mini stepper. Both were good options for an over crowded townhouse!

  10. Doug Burns
    Doug Burns May 11, 2007 at 5:36 pm | | Reply

    It makes me so happy to see stuff like this. When technology is properly applied to address a need, it can great for the world.

    Good ol’ traditional sports are still an option, but, especially for kids, they’re becoming more about honing a skill and less about enjoying a game and being active. This leaves a lot of people out.

    Advancements like “exergaming” include these people and open up the options to a larger audience… and make it fun for people who otherwise dread exercise.

    At this point, I’m thoroughly convinced that with the right tools and the right support, people can personalize their habits to suit their own needs. Sure… proper diet and exercise are things that have to be DONE, but when they’re also FUN and personal, it’s a lot more likely people will stick with it.

    Even the stuff you gotta do can be fun if it’s personally tailored. It can even be fun to trade ideas with people around you… at the very least, it keeps the variety at a high.

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