Exergaming, or active gaming, combines two very popular concepts: video games and fitness. Studies show that people play interactive games for a number of reasons: to have fun, dance, stay fit, meet other people, or simply to enjoy the challenge of the game itself. No matter what the reason, players reap a number of benefits that are intrinsic to each of these activities: the health benefits of exercise and the improved cognitive skills that develop as a positive side-effect of video gaming.
While research into the benefits that fitness games have on health is still at a relatively young stage, studies have shown that exergaming elevates energy expenditure to moderate or vigorous activity, and can indeed offer the same health benefits as traditional exercise. There is a growing number of studies that support the positive effect exergaming has on health, fitness, coordination, anxiety and stress reduction, as well as social, cognitive and problem solving skills, among other things.
The single greatest advantage active gaming has over traditional forms of exercise is that it is not just a physical activity, but also a form of entertainment. iDANCE and similar dance games offer participants a much higher level of engagement than regular exercise, which significantly reduces the level of perceived exertion in players. As a result, the level of motivation to stick with the exercise program is also much higher than with traditional exercise. As an additional plus, iDANCE is a professional fitness solution designed for participants of all ages, which makes the 'stealth health' factor accessible to everyone, regardless of age and fitness level.
Because it is interactive in nature, exergaming inspires enthusiasm for exercise, and the combined benefits of iDANCE and other fitness games make them an excellent gateway to more demanding forms of exercise, to sports and, by extension, to a healthier lifestyle.
These are some of the benefits that exergaming offers to players:
Health and weight management
Experts agree that an hour of moderate to vigorous exercise a day is essential for children's health. In spite of this, children and teenagers today are growing increasingly used to a sedentary lifestyle, which leads to a number of health issues, even at an early age. While exergaming may not be the cure for diseases that come with an inactive lifestyle, obesity being the most frequent one, the engaging nature of the game makes it an extremely fun activity not only for children, but for adults and seniors as well. This makes iDANCE and other games an excellent choice for anyone who has a hard time staying motivated to exercise. With other forms of exercise, people will usually be thinking about how exhausted they are; with exergaming, their mind is immersed in the game and they are just having fun.
When it comes to weight management, experts frequently recommend exergaming as a complement to other forms of exercise such as cycling, but for people whose fitness level is relatively low, dance games are an excellent place to start. They burn as many calories or more than a brisk walking pace and, needless to say, the energy expediture is three times higher than that in sedentary activities.
Exergaming can be particularly beneficial to overweight children and those who do not usually participate in any kind of physical activity. For one thing, it provides them with a quality exercise tool and a healthy alternative to the regular kind of video games, which are often blamed for the part they play in childhood obesity. For another, the addictive nature of video games is precisely what makes exergaming intrinsically motivating. Another reason why exergaming is particularly well suited to overweight children is that they burn more calories during the exercise than normal weight children.
Exergaming can also have a beneficial effect on people suffering from type 2 diabetes who often lose interest in various forms of exercise even though treatment requires regular physical activity. While it is not as vigorous an activity as, for instance, running on a treadmill, iDANCE is a lot more engaging and not as demanding on the body when played at lower levels, which encourages people to stick with it and yields better results in the long term.
Machine dance delivers a level of activity similar to the cardiovascular exercise achieved by joggers and runners. Sometimes it even surpasses it, as players get more carried away by the exercise than they would while running.
The physical benefits of iDANCE include improved speed, balance, agility, sense of rhythm, coordination, spatial awareness, endurance and reaction time. As an added benefit, all the skills acquired while playing can be transferred to real-world situations.
The interactive aspects of exergaming – competition, attention to details in the virtual environment, the need for participants to anticipate events and make decisions – all have a very positive effect on executive functioning as well as on attention, working memory, planning, multi-tasking and problem solving skills. This can be particularly beneficial to seniors, as it helps delay dementia and improve cognitive skills.
Because of their potential to improve children's academic performance and not just physical health, exergames are becoming part of students' physical education classes. With machine dance in particular, researchers have found a positive correlation between the use of the iDANCE system and performance in school. The cognitive benefits of iDANCE range from better ordering and sequencing skills to pattern recognition and higher overall competence level.
Studies of sedentary video gaming have shown an improved processing and visual attention capacity, better visual-spatial skills, estimation, pattern recognition, judgment, hypothesis testing, the ability to switch between tasks, and other cognitive skills that improve academic performance. While there are no current studies on the correlation between attention and active video gaming, it is likely that exergaming has the same positive effect in this respect as traditional gaming.
Exergaming is a social experience. It provides an opportunity to interact with peers with similar interests, which can in turn foster friendships among players.
The multiplayer experience and ability to have people playing at different difficulty levels side by side has a positive effect on self-esteem, especially with children, while the immersive nature of the game gives them a sense of commonality and collaboration. At the same time, the level of any player is never compromised, which gives each player a sense of autonomy. Reduced body self-consciousness is another factor that can contribute to self-esteem, especially with children. The players' attention is always directed at a screen, not at themselves or at other players.
For all these and many other reasons, exergaming has become one of the fastest growing market segments in the health games arena in recent years. It is being implemented into physical education curriculums in schools, and widely accepted in health clubs, senior homes, hospitals, and other recreational and non-recreational settings, both for the health benefits it offers and for its appealing, engaging, fun nature.