Paul VanWiechen, CSEP CEP, ACSM RCEP
Director, Exercise Physiology at Cleveland Clinic Canada
Do the new ‘active’ video games count as exercise?
It’s no secret that modern conveniences have made it harder and harder to accumulate our 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous exercise. Physical activity that used to be unavoidable – taking the stairs, walking to the store, household chores – is slowly being replaced by technology and routines that minimize physical exertion.
While few would argue that online banking and gas lawnmowers should be abolished in the name of more physical activity, it is ironic that a major driving force behind all this convenience is to free up more time in the day – yet many of us still report ‘lack of time’ as the number one barrier to getting more physically active.
Video game manufacturers seem to have caught on to this paradox. There are now several companies promoting ‘active gaming’, getting you off the couch and into action. Kids and adults alike can now run, jump, throw, cycle, climb and balance their way through virtual worlds created by Wii Fit, CompuTrainer, Dance Dance Revolution, Golf Launchpad and PCGamerBike.
But is it exercise? Can a game of virtual tennis or 20 minutes of yoga on a balance board really make a difference to your health?
Yes, they can. Several large Canadian studies have shown that if you take the ‘game’ seriously enough, the exertion involved is often more than enough to qualify as exercise. And playing 3 times a week for 30 minutes can be an effective way to start seeing some weight loss and improvements in cardiovascular health.
Of course, it is unlikely that this level of exercise will ever get you in peak physical shape – it’s closer to a brisk walk or some heavy gardening than to an aerobics class or a squash game. And there’s something to be said for the social interaction and fresh air that those other forms of exercise can bring. But in the war on sedentarism, we’ll take any ally we can get, even if it uses the same technology that started the fight.
To book an Exercise Physiology consultation, please call 416.507.6600.