Video Games May Aid In Weight Loss

POSTED: 1:02 pm CST February 20, 2006
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Doctors predict that for the first time there is a generation of Americans with shorter life spans than their parents.
But some local college students have stumbled upon a way to get children to lose weight so they can live longer lives, and it takes place inside a video arcade.
To many young adults like Adriana Griffin, the idea of sweating it out in a health club gym sounds more like torture than fun. But at the California State University, Sacramento arcade, she and her friends line up to play games that score them on their fancy footwork.
"I used to do some sports in high school, like soccer or swimming, and it really didn't do anything. Then I started playing 'In The Groove' (videogame) and 'DDR,' and the pounds just kind of fell off by accident. I didn't really change my eating style. I just lost a lot of weight," Griffin said.

Griffin lost 45 pounds to be exact. And that's what health advocates have been hoping to see in young adults and in children.
According to health experts, 29 percent of children in Sacramento, 31 percent of children in Stockton and 30 percent of children in Modesto are overweight. That's 50,000 overweight children in the three cities alone. But many of those same children also love videogames.
"If they can translate whatever they see in front of a computer, if they can translate it to physical activity or their dining habits, then they will go a long way," Dr. G. Prakasam said.
To help slim American families down, one organization -- the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation -- is asking computer and gaming companies to work exercise into more of their games.
Game producer RedOctane has already jumped on board with "In The Groove."
"Because there's a lot of criticism of videogames now for their content, I personally believe that games that are based on music and fitness and things that are good for the whole family will gain more popularity as years come," said RedOctane representative John Tam.
But not everyone is willing to freestyle dance in public. So, RedOctane has developed a home version with levels so easy that an 8-year-old can play it.
Gamers and health experts say that the new games are a step in the right direction.
Over the past three decades, obesity rates have more than doubled in children age 2 to 5, and tripled in children age 6 to 11.

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