Monday, March 17, 2008

Study: Video game slows weight gain, boosts confidence

Associated Press Writer - March 16, 2008

Picture of Ryan Walker
Ryan Walker, 12, is shown playing "Dance Dance Revolution Extreme" in December in Martinsburg, W.Va. Walker started playing the game in 2005 and averaged 1 to 1-1/2 hours every day on the game which has helped him shed approximately 20 pounds. AP PHOTO.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - After weeks of bopping along to the video game Dance Dance Revolution, Ryan Walker is trimmer and stronger and for the first time the 12-year-old feels comfortable in his own skin.

"Before, he didn't want to play with kids, go to school dances or any of those functions and now he wants to do things," says his mother, Tammy Walker.

Ryan's transformation occurred over the 24 weeks he participated in a West Virginia University study that hoped to determine if the exergame could be used to combat the nation's child obesity problem.

The study, funded in part by West Virginia's health insurance program for public employees, took 35 overweight children between the ages of 7 and 12 and asked them to gradually increase the amount of time they played the game. Each child was medically considered overweight according to his body-mass index, a measurement of body fat through a height and weight ratio.

What researchers found was that participants who regularly played and continued to eat fatty foods were able to slow down but not stop their weight gain. Researchers are calling it a "stall in weight gain."

Children who relied on the game as their sole source of exercise gained 2 pounds during the study. Those who did not play the game gained an average of 5.3 pounds.

"We didn't even attempt to change their diet, which is another reason that we didn't see significant weight loss," said WVU researcher Emily Murphy.

Instead researchers found that in addition to better artery expansion, some participants developed physical self-esteem.

The game's addictive nature, and capacity to lead to greater physical activity, earns it a comparison to drugs, with WVU researcher Linda Carson dubbing it a "gateway physical activity."

"The first night I did it about 30 times in a row, I didn't want to stop," Ryan said.

The game is played on a dance pad with eight arrows pointing forward, backward, left, right and diagonally. Players press the panels with their feet in response to arrows displayed on the video screen that are synchronized to the beat of a chosen song.

Success is measured by the player's ability to time and position his or her steps.

The study directed participants to work their way up to playing 25 songs equal to about an hour of playtime a day and researchers called weekly to check on progress.

But simply introducing exercise into lifestyles that include french fries as dietary staples won't correct obesity, researchers said. That's unfortunate news for West Virginia, where nearly 21 percent of state residents under 18 are considered overweight, according to Trust for America's Health.

The state's rural nature, which hampers the development of exercise-oriented infrastructure, is partly blamed for the problems with obesity, state nutrition officials say. Poverty also plays a role as it affects nearly 1 in 4 West Virginia children.

Even staying after school to participate in athletics or extracurricular activities is a challenge because for many students a bus ride is the only way to and from school. Because of declining populations, many boards of education have consolidated schools, forcing students to catch long bus rides back home to isolated rural homes.

"In many of our rural areas there just isn't a way to make a safe route for children to walk to school along roads that coal trucks and other fast traffic travel on," said Melanie Purkey, executive director of the state's Office of Healthy Schools.

Those are some of the reasons why the state has integrated Dance Dance Revolution into West Virginia's 160 middle schools and is encouraging school administrators to make the game available to students during free periods before and after school, Purkey said.

My daughter, Rachael and I, are going to buy this video game. It looks like a fun way toRachel Bailey before and after pics exercise and lose weight.

Read how Rachel Bailey lost 40 pounds in 2-1/2 months!

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