Microsoft and the NFL team up to fight childhood obesity

Microsoft and NFL great Jerry Rice team up to convince kids to play XBox...and move with Kinect.

Normally, social education campaigns for kids are all about getting kids to go to school, say no to drugs, study more, read, and other important practices that'll help kids grow into healthy adults.

Microsoft and the NFL have come up with a new kind of social education campaign -- one which is also good for kids, but which might prove to be far more appealing to children than eating their vegetables.

Microsoft is launching the Xbox 360 "60 Million Minutes Challenge," with the objective of getting one million kids to pledge that they'll play for 60 minutes between now and Super Bowl Sunday in February. That's not necessarily play on the Xbox...that's real analog play. Or at least some kind of play that involves physical movement using Kinect on the Xbox.

The idea is really pretty simple: move your body. The more you move your body, the healthier you are. Kids today spend most of their time plopped in front of the TV, the computer, and the Xbox.

Microsoft's program, assisted with the support of football great Jerry Rice, is designed to get kids up off their little buns and moving -- and Microsoft (quite obviously) recommends playing Kinect games for 60 minutes a day. This makes sense to me, because if kids are already oriented towards the Xbox, linking a movement-based activity with a beloved (but sedentary) one might increase chances of ingraining a healthy habit over time.

I recently read The Mayo Clinic Diet, and one of their suggestions was to spend no more time watching TV than you spend exercising. Maybe a future goal might be for your kids to make a game out of matching minutes on regular Xbox games with minutes exercising with Kinect. For instance, if your little space marine wants to spend an hour with Master Chief, he or she has to spend an hour mastering groovy moves on Dance Central.

That's not so bad, right? After all, it's for good reason. Let's break this down. First, childhood obesity is a growing problem (as is, sadly, obesity in all Americans). Second, movement is one of the very best ways (along with diet) to combat obesity. Finally, doctors say that 30 to 60 minutes a day of exercise is what it will take to keep fit. It may seem challenging at first, but kids will probably grow to love it.

Overall, it's a valid program. Participation may provide a way to get kids used to the idea of more physical activity. I have a Kinect here, and I very much enjoy playing it. Some games can be quite the workout. I also have a Wii (I have my doubts about the Wii U), and some of the Wii games can also help you work up a sweat.

Microsoft is pretty cool about the program. Of course they'd like your kids to play Kinect, but they've structured the program in such a way that any type of play is allowable -- as long as they move.

To take the challenge, go to