Addressing the Obesity Epidemic Through Gaming
According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, there are currently about 160 million Americans who are considered to be overweight. That includes children. It’s a number that has been on the rise for years, despite growing awareness of the problems obesity can cause.
There are many different causes of obesity, including genetics, lifestyle, certain medications, behaviors, and of course, diet. While obesity is dangerous for anyone, it can be especially damaging for children. Unfortunately, obesity is on the rise for kids, with about 13.7 million adolescents considered overweight in the United States. This epidemic has been linked to poor nutrition habits, lack of physical activity, and schools cutting things like sports and physical education.
Meanwhile, video games have been associated with laziness for years, especially when it comes to how often some kids and adults play them. It’s easy to watch Mario run around and jump up for gold coins while all you’re doing is pushing buttons on a controller. While owning your friends on Fortnite might not help you to shed any pounds, the video game industry has been taking a turn toward health and fitness in recent years, fighting back against the negative stereotypes often linked to games.
What Are the Risks of Obesity?
Before we get into some of the health benefits of video games, let’s look at some of the risks of obesity in both adults and children. Because childhood obesity is such a huge problem right now, focusing on some of the risks and side effects can highlight how important it is to get your children moving and for schools to take action. Some of the short-term effects of childhood obesity include:
- Low self-esteem from body shaming
Long-term physical issues can include things like:
- Heart conditions
- Respiratory problems
Not only are these problems serious, but treatment can end up costing a lot of money, too.
Adults who are significantly overweight can experience some of the same short- and long-term health issues, as well as other problems like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Your risk of GERD increases when you’re overweight because there is extra pressure on your stomach, which can cause feelings of reflux and heartburn.
Obesity can even affect healthcare workers. The epidemic has become such a problem that healthcare workers are starting to suffer from back problems and injuries due to helping overweight patients stand up and move around on a daily basis. When someone’s weight has a negative effect on another person, you know it’s a problem!
Can Video Games Help With Fitness?
With so many potential risks and problems associated with obesity, video games are probably the last thing on your mind when it comes to something that could help. Whether you want to improve your own health by losing a few pounds or you’re interested in encouraging your child to lead a more active lifestyle, video games could be the answer. No, we don’t mean popping in Grand Theft Auto and munching on a bowl of chips. There are certain video games that have actually been designed to get you (and your kids) more active.
Gaming systems that encourage you to get up and move aren’t exactly new. Nintendo’s Wii Fit was introduced in 2007, and Xbox’s Kinect was first launched in 2010. While some of these systems have started to phase out, there are still plenty of video games that help people to get up off the couch and start moving.
Some of the most popular options include the games in the Just Dance franchise, as well as EA Sports games that can make you feel a bit like David Beckham, even when you’re playing in your pajamas. Nike even partnered with Xbox to develop Kinect Training, which was designed to offer similar training techniques that some of the world’s top athletes receive — all from your living room.
The idea of using video games to help fight the obesity epidemic is a great way of thinking outside the box, especially when it comes to kids. While playing video games might not replace more traditional forms of physical activity, it can motivate us to get moving a little more by doing something we already enjoy.
When it comes to your own health and the health of your children, it’s not about what your body looks like. In fact, depending on how young your children are, it’s important to be gentle when talking about their weight. Your goal for yourself and your children should be to boost your health and lower the risk of potential health conditions. That often requires making some lifestyle changes that include eating better and being active as often as possible.
But, if video games are popular in your house, they can be a great resource when it comes to getting started on those changes. As you or your children start to see results and feel better, it can be the driving motivation you need to jump-start a healthier, happier lifestyle.