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Game on! Or not…

Posted by wmagnus On August - 17 - 2009

x360_wl_controllerThe CDC in cooperation with Emory and Andrews University has again profiled video gamers and found measurable correlations with health risks. The study appears in the October issue of The American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study examined age, behaviors and a variety of health related factors. Compared to this 2004 study which showed the average age of video gamers to be 29, the current study shows gamers are on average now 35. Gamers are getting older, but the other correlations are telling.

CDC‘s Dr James B Weaver said, “Health risk factors, specifically a higher BMI and a larger number of poor mental-health days, differentiated adult video-game players from non gamers.” Worse yet, female video gamers had much higher levels of depression than non-gamers.

Higher BMI than non-gamers is a major finding. We already have an obesity problem amongst adults and finding that video gaming behavior only adds to it isn’t encouraging.

Games don’t have to be a problem. The same Journal that published this study noted in January 2008, that video games can be used to encourage health related behavior change. Here’s some ideas how:

Dance Dance Revolution was one of the first games to get people off the sofa and moving. A quick Googling finds a number of people who lost weight while dancing to their favorite hits. While DDR has been around for years, newer titles such as Wii Fit, actually directly focus on exercise and weight loss. Wii Fit even offers regular fitness testing and tracks weight loss across gaming sessions. Once Wii Fit isn’t a challenge anymore there are more titles such as EA Sports Active.

Other gaming platforms have more limited options but games like Rock Band can certainly turn into exercise. Assuming that players get off the sofa and play like a rock performer there’s enough cardio there to get some breathing going and heart rate pounding. It’s not hard core exercise, but more than one drummer is drenched with sweat after playing along with Rock Band.

Trends are hard to escape, video gamers are on whole getting older, fatter, and more depressed. Those don’t have to go together. If you run into Xbox Live gamertag Lord187X that you’re playing against a 51 year-old who is still in shape, works crazy hours and holds down multiple jobs. That man is Ice-T and he’ll happily cap you.

His Take:

I have been video gaming essentially my whole life, for the love of the game. I will play nearly anything at least for a little while especially if it is different. I flirted with top level competitive play even after I had shaved down to a BMI of 25 and didn’t gain weight despite many hours spent online playing and competing. Now, at 39, I still game and bring the average age up and the average weight of gamers down. Fitness has to be a focus and end unto itself or anything you do that isn’t physically stenuous can result in weight gain.

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