Putting the Fun in Kids' Fitness

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Teen playing video gameMADISON – Most adults have fond childhood memories of playing tag until dusk with friends, riding bicycles around the neighborhood, maybe even games of flag football in the park. For many in today's younger generations, those childhood memories will likely involve hours in front of televisions playing videogames.

"This generation is completely different," says Randy Clark, exercise physiologist with the Pediatric Fitness Clinic and Sports Medicine Center of UW Health. "Research suggests that despite our technological and medical advancements, the younger generations today will have a shorter life span than their parents. And it’s due to their sedentary lifestyle."

While the childhood obesity epidemic is often mentioned in the media, many people may not realize just how significant this issue is.

"Doctors are seeing diseases such as heart disease and diabetes affecting younger and younger kids," said Clark. "The US ranks first in childhood obesity. We’ve increased the calorie intake through fast foods and sodas, while physical activity has decreased. And even here in Wisconsin a significant number of kids are affected."

Yet those same video games may just be part of the solution.
"Exertainment" or interactive exercise uses such popular video games as Digital Dance Revolution and Game Bikes to make exercise fun for kids. In Digital Dance Revolution, or DDR for short, players stand on a large mat that is hooked to the video game system. They must follow the dance steps on the screen while the mat records their foot action. Players earn points for successfully following the directions and can even compete against each other. It is a game that definitely raises the resting heart rate.

"It's a great example of a way to make exercise fun," according to Clark. "Kids who wouldn't think of going out and exercising have a great time and can begin to get fit in the process."

While Clark also points to the fact that diet and lifestyle issues must also be addressed, making exercise fun is the first step.

"We're trying to find solutions. We have an obligation to address this issue and it's critical that we do so, because it's a problem that won't go away on its own," he concluded.

The Pediatric Fitness Clinic offers fitness evaluations for kids and helps them to develop healthy habits for life. For more information, visit www.uwhealth.org/fitkids.

Date Published: 05/21/2008

News tag(s):  pediatric fitness

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