Health, Fitness Clubs Look to 'Exertainment' and Interactive Fitness

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The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), a teaching organization that helps fitness enthusiasts become certified personal trainers, has examined the latest phenom of video game technology and how it can play a role in the lives of both active and inactive people. The ISSA interviewed exertainment experts, conducted product reviews, and worked with personal trainers, club managers and gym owners to determine the role of video game technology in fitness and health clubs of the future.

The interesting thing about these kinds of games is, the better you get at a video game, the more energy efficient you become. While playing DDR, as I was getting more efficient at the game, the game would become faster, so I was still getting a good workout

Video games aren't just for computer geeks and couch potatoes anymore. A new kind of digital activity is captivating the fitness world, attempting to help more people get off the couch and stay active.

The International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), a teaching organization that helps fitness enthusiasts become certified personal trainers, has examined the latest phenom of video game technology and how it can play a role in the lives of both active and inactive people. The ISSA interviewed exertainment experts, conducted product reviews, and worked with personal trainers, club managers and gym owners to determine the role of video game technology in fitness and health clubs of the future.

Exertainment, also known as exergaming, is a term used for video games that also provide exercise. Many people, including personal trainers, health clubs and even school districts, are looking to Sportwall, Cateye Game bikes, Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), Sony Playstation, Nintendo Wii and other gaming systems to introduce a new group, or generation, of people to the health benefits of regular physical activity. Most inactive and sedentary people are aware of some of the most basic benefits of exercise: from preventing heart disease and type II diabetes to managing weight and reducing stress levels. However, many of those same people find it hard to reconcile the concept of "exercise" with "fun" and thus lack the motivation to make a commitment to physical activity. Now, with the advent of new technologies that combine activity and entertainment, gyms and health professionals have a tool that will attract those that have previously shied away from exercise as too "boring", "difficult" or just plain "unpleasant".

"When I am thinking of video games fighting obesity, I am thinking of interactive games as opposed to sitting on a couch moving your thumbs. Generally sedentary individuals could certainly get more active as a result of this phenomenon of movement based video games," says Josh Trout, Ph.D., exergaming expert and Assistant Professor of kinesiology at the California State University, Chico. "These new systems provide more opportunities for people to be physically active. Some people may not want to put on a heart rate monitor and walk around the block, but they can get their heart rate up in their own living room using the Sony iToy, Dance Dance Revolution or Nintendo's Wii."

"The interesting thing about these kinds of games is, the better you get at a video game, the more energy efficient you become. While playing DDR, as I was getting more efficient at the game, the game would become faster, so I was still getting a good workout," reports Dr. Trout. "Not only was my heart rate staying up, but I was also getting better at the game, moving my feet faster, and staying in control as I progressed."

But, it isn't just professors of kinesiology that are realizing fitness benefits from new video game technology. "The greatest benefit I have seen is that, regardless of a child's physical ability, every child can participate and have fun while doing so," says Kristin L. McEwen, Executive Director, Metro Atlanta YMCA, who installed a Sportwall into their facility to help their members get and stay active using this technology.

"There are over 700 locations worldwide using our Sportwall, including schools, YMCA's, JC's, 24 Hour Fitness, Lifetime Fitness, Gold's Gym and other fitness and tennis facilities," reports Tom West, Vice President of Sportwall International, Inc. Sportwall International Inc. initially manufactured non-electronic backboards for tennis. Now, as the manufacturer of the Sensory Integration Training system, they sell a line of training systems that combine computer games with a cardiovascular workout to get the feet moving and help develop hand-eye coordination.

"Because our systems require active participation, engaging neurological feedback, you have to respond to the equipment, making our Sensory Integration systems interactive. With traditional fitness machines you don't have to be so engaged," reveals Mr. West. "Also, many digital systems qualify for general liability insurance, while standard junior strength training equipment requires a separate insurance policy. This is attractive to health clubs looking to develop fitness programs for the young members of their facilities."

"Health clubs will start to incorporate more interactive gaming tools to attract populations that may not otherwise get involved," discloses Rick Sikorski, CEO and Founder of the Fitness Together Franchise Corporation. "This will help more people get hooked on positive fitness habits, especially kids and those that want a change to their normal routine." Mr. Sikorski has set up over 400 private one-on-one personal training studios worldwide and has plans to establish studios tailored toward the younger population: "Because of the demand, we are in the infancy stages of developing a program for teens -- a fun, high energy, colorful place using the latest interactive technology to help our youth build life long fitness habits."

ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer Clark Bartram agrees that exertainment technologies have a huge potential to be of benefit to our youth. As former owner and operator of International Fitness -- a 7,500 square foot gym located in San Marcos, CA -- he has trained dozens of kids after school and on weekends.

"Kids between 8 and 14 don't want to be thrown into what I call the 'stinky diaper pit', littered with small children, while their parents are working out," says Clark Bartram, international fitness professional and proud father of two. "We invested in lifecycles attached to Sony Playstations for this group to have fun while exercising. The only way they can keep playing is if they keep pedaling."

Despite its role in increasing the amount of physical activity undertaken by more sedentary individuals, especially youth, the grass isn't necessarily much greener for video game technology than it is for traditional fitness equipment. "It all depends upon how it's used," says Dr. Trout. "It really comes down to intensity level, just like being on a cardio machine. If you are on level 3, you will not gain as much health benefit as you would if you were pushing yourself on a higher level, say level 8."

When one enlists a certified personal trainer to design a fitness program, the goal is usually weight management, increased athletic performance, stress reduction or functional training that better enables your body to handle the physical demands of your daily life. A video game console cannot replace the services of a competent fitness trainer, but it can be a great help as far instigating a fun and active lifestyle.

(For complete story see: Health, Fitness Clubs Look to 'Exertainment' and Interactive Fitness)

About ISSA
Since 1988 the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) has provided certification and continuing education to over 80,000 satisfied fitness professionals. ISSA certifications are recognized worldwide. From Youth Fitness to Senior Fitness, ISSA offers 10 certification programs and dozens of continuing education courses. For more information on the ISSA, please visit: http://www.issaonline.com

To schedule an interview with a representative of ISSA, please contact:

Sabeen Sadiq
Director of Public Relations for the ISSA
Email: ssadiq @ issaonline.com
Toll-free: 1-800-892-4772
International: (805) 745-8111

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