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Video Games Fine for Fitness

Jeff Strickler, Star Tribune, Minneapolis

Posted July 30, 2012

The President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, a venerable organization that has been promoting push-ups, sit-ups and other traditional forms of sweating since the days of the Eisenhower administration, finally has plugged into high-tech. The agency has changed its guidelines to include participation in "active video" games, including the Wii Fit, Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Just Dance.

There appears to be a bit of the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy at work here. Noting that kids spend an average of 7 1/2 hours a day in front of video and TV screens, the goal is to turn "passive screen time into active screen time."

But it's not all just about giving into fads. The video games can have a legitimate physical fitness application, said Sue Masemer, manager of the LiveWell Fitness Center at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in south Minneapolis, which has been using a Wii as part of its exercise equipment for four years.

"The key thing is to get your large muscle groups moving," she said. "Your heart doesn't know why you're moving. It just responds to the fact that you are moving."

One of the keys to getting the maximum benefit from an exercise program is doing it regularly. If playing a game seems like fun while grunting your way through calisthenics feels like work, you're much more likely to opt for fun, Masemer said.

"It can be great motivation," she said. "If you're not enjoying something, you're not going to keep doing it."

©2012 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Visit the Star Tribune (Minneapolis) at www.startribune.com

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