In the war on fat, schools are experimenting with "exergames" devices, such as stationary video game bikes, snowboards and virtual soccer, hoping to lure students into exercising while gaming. The verdict is still out, however, on whether the new devices really will help kids get in shape, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The idea is to motivate students who would normally be sedentary playing video games, to transition to "exer-gaming."
"The kids love (the Dance Dance Revolution game) and the game bikes. This is the first time in 11 years of teaching P.E. that I've had to kick kids out of class who don't want to stop exercising," said Laura Perdikomatis, physical education department chair at Woodside High.
Critics of the phenomenon question whether exergames are really worth the investment, and are worried that students will just get bored.
The University of California at San Francisco conducted a study where 30 youths ages 9 to 18 took home Dance Dance Revolution and kept a diary for six months. Within four weeks, the children reported being bored with the game. By the end of six months, almost no one was dancing regularly.
"In the last four or five years, there's been a movement in the fitness industry to use technology to get kids off the couch. The concern is we don't have any research one way or the other that it is helpful," said Stephen Sanders, director of physical education at the University of South Florida.
But P.E. teachers like the option of using the games, especially on rainy days. Courtney Cook, a fifth-grade teacher at Cesar Chavez Elementary in San Francisco, touted the virtues of a Dance Dance Revolution set was donated to her classroom last year.
"It's excellent for their coordination, and it's an incredible cardio workout," Cook said. "It's gotten to the point that if it's sunny out they get disappointed."
Like most diets and exercise, one has to change eating and exercise habits over the long term to lose weight.
"The bottom line is if they do it, it works. But the problem is they don't do it," Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist and nationally renowned obesity expert.