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September 7th, 2009

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10:53 am - Wii Fit. My Fitness Coach, etc.
I need some opinions from the rest of the thinking world. I'm studying to become a personal trainer, and as a former little fat kid, I really do like the idea of all of these new movement based games that get kids off their bums, but how effective are they really?

For years I played DDR, but my diet was such that while I got a lot skinnier, I still wasn't in good shape.

My question is, are these new Wii Fit games enforcing enough of a sense of discipline that people keep coming back until they lose weight?

I intend to go back to playing some DDR for my cardio soon, but that is in conjunction with my ballcrushing P90X workouts or, when that's done, another cycle of lifting. I'm fit in a total sense, is the Wii really helping with that?

I guess what I'm trying to get at is: will this counter-act the years and years of terrible crap we have been doing to our bodies, and suddenly enforce a new initiative in personal accountability, and start changing some of the stereotypes?


Addendum: Some high schools, mostly private I think, have incorporated DDR into their Phys Ed curriculums. I'm not entirely sure how it works. I think there are two people actually playing, and several non electronic mats that other kids in the class use to shadow the movements.

This seems to be an essay on the subject, most likely written as a senior thesis. It also answers my question. http://brainmeld.org/TeachingGuideLibrary/BrainMeld-DanceDanceRev-Mann.pdf

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:September 8th, 2009 02:15 pm (UTC)
I think that any sort of video based weight loss program (whether it be virtual gaming or even a workout dvd) are ineffective for most people. Yes, it could be used on a fuck It's raining and I don't want to go out to the gym, so I'll just stay home and do my own workout.

Incorporating DDR into phys ed programs? That sounds fantastic, but DDR is primarily cardio, and won't help with strength training.

A sense of discipline comes from another person, or rarely within a person. If the Wii fit can help with a daily regimen of working out, cardio, strength training, stretching, then by all means we should all take a look at it. Until there is some sort of proof for it working, I'm going to stick to the gym.
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2009 11:18 am (UTC)
DDR worked for me. I was one of the nerds who did well in academics and music but hated PE. If I could get rid of my body and just be a brain in a jar, I'd do it. Once PE was no longer required, I stopped exercising, so I was obese (BMI 30+) for most of my 20s. My blood pressure was high (140/90), my cholesterol was high, and I was prescribed Glucophage for being borderline diabetic. I also developed plantar fasciitis, so at the time, I couldn't walk without pain.

Long before Wii Fit was created, I was introduced to DDR. I would be the first to say that it's not "exercise". In fact, it's actually a puzzle game (like Tetris), and I love puzzle games. I also love pop music. (I'm classically trained, but I'm no music snob.) Even though my feet hurt, and even though I sucked at first, DDR was still fun enough that I would look forward to making time to play every chance I get.

It's been almost a decade since then. I still play DDR regularly (now scoring many AAs in Expert). I've been in the "normal weight" category for four of those years so far (BMI floating between 22 and 23). My blood pressure is around 90/60. My blood sugar level is normal; my cholesterol is in the half of normal risk level. I no longer have any symptoms of plantar fasciitis because I always do my feet stretches before playing DDR. I agree that it's all cardio, so I don't have bulging muscles, but according to the standard health measurements, I'm quite healthy. I'm also much more energetic and more agile than I was before I started playing DDR.

I still don't believe in "working out". I still think "working out" is inefficient and a waste of resources, and I still hate it. DDR showed me that "physical activity" is "play", not "work" (either "in" or "out"), and the fun aspect motivates me to keep coming back for more.

I bought myself Wii Fit, My Fitness Coach, and EA Active, but they're just not very fun for me. I still use Wii Fit because of the graph, but I just use the module and no longer even stick the disk into the Wii. I think the sheer awareness and tracking helps. I know what fluctuation in weight is normal for me, and I know when I deviate from it. The long-term graph in Wii Fit helped me figure out little things like my weight tending to be lower during broccoli season, and that convinced me to do the math and figure out that I wasn't getting enough calcium in my food. I added yogurt to my diet, and that pushed my average weight five lbs lower. Wii Fit also shows me very graphically if I've been eating too much food for too long, so I know when to cut back without having to count calories.

Everybody is different, of course, but in my case, the key to regular physical activity is in fun, not discipline. DDR works with my love of music, puzzle games, and even getting good grades to make physical movement fun. The graph in Wii Fit makes sure that I have enough information to keep my weight under control without having to spend effort tracking it myself.

I would be delighted if some game company can make an actual game out of developing upper body strength. Boxing in Wii Fit and tennis from Wii Sports are interesting attempts, but they fall short. Maybe something like "Taiko Band" / "Taiko Hero" with extra-heavy drum sticks would do it?

In any case, we're all different. Each person will probably need a different motivator to stay physically active. Active video games won't help everybody, and even when it does help, different people are going to respond differently to different games. Also, people are going to change as time goes on, so what works for any given person is likely to change over time as well.
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2009 01:00 pm (UTC)
First of all, I'm glad to hear that it wprked out for you.

I suppose my major apprehension is that america and the uk are facing record levels of obesity. Instead of looking for positive lifestyle changes, people want drugs and miracla diets. I just think that ddr is A solution but we nEd to work more feverishly to aCount for more ways to get kids active
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
If we're talking about kids, I think it's less likely to be a discipline issue. Kids are more likely to become active and stay active if it's fun. I think a lot of kids learn to hate physical activity because schools and parents have made it way too serious and boring. When I was growing up, doing push-ups was somehow "good" while playing on jungle gyms and monkey bars was somehow "bad". The free-form school dances where people just moved around were somehow "bad", while the regimented, slow, and structured ballroom dancing lessons during PE were somehow "good". Running horribly boring laps in circles was somehow "good", even though just running around during recess was somehow "bad". Bodies don't care whether the kids are running because they're having fun or whether they're running because a teacher is standing there with a stopwatch and making them run.

From my point of view, people are obese because they work too much and get too serious. During my obese 20s, I worked 80 hr weeks. I found time to play DDR by easing up and not working so much. "Working", whether it's working for money or working for fitness (as opposed to playing for fitness), increases stress, and that convinces our bodies to store fat. We train kids out of having fun, we push them since pre-school to do well in academics, we destroy the areas where they can just play and have fun, and then we wonder why they're obese? When I was growing up, it was normal to play in the streets, homes had front and back yards to play in, and there was always a park or playground within walking distance. We're too crowded now. There are too many cars to play in the streets, yards are tiny to non-existent, and the closest parks are at the outskirts of the cities. Active video games have the potential to fix that. We wouldn't need drugs and miracle diets if we just remember how to have fun instead of being obsessed over working towards a certain supposedly ideal weight or size. People stop exercise programs because they're too goal-oriented. Measurable results often come very slowly, and in these fast-paced times, people get discouraged when they don't see rapid progress. However, even if results can't be easily seen and measured in human-comprehensible time frames, physical activity is still making people's bodies healthier, so if people are having fun doing the physical activity itself, it doesn't matter that they're not making progress towards some goal.

I think we'd get better results "playing" at it than "working" at it. If you think about the words, it's ironic to work "feverishly" towards trying to help people become healthy (as "fevers" are generally indicative of illness, not health).

People want drugs and miracle diets because they already work hard, and the thought of having to work even harder -- without pay -- is just demotivating. For most people, going to the gym is paying out their hard-earned money to make themselves miserable for a possible future that might get cut short by the next drunk driver. So, of course they are ready to jump on shortcuts if it's going to be so much work for such remote rewards. If they can be find a way to be healthy that is also fun, they'd probably take the fun method over drugs and miracle diets. Very few people would take shortcuts that would bypass having fun. People buy CliffsNotes for Shakespeare because it's required reading. It's work instead of play. But as long as schools aren't requiring it, would anybody buy CliffsNotes for the Harry Potter series?

As I said, everybody is different. No one solution is going to work for everybody. As long as we treat everybody the same and force people into cookie-cutter solutions, we're going to be wrong, and we'll be teaching many kids to hate physical activity. I have mixed feelings about DDR in schools. I have some friends with school-age kids, and the kids are saying that DDR is uncool because the school is making them do it. (I bought several friends' kids DDR as presents. Several of the parents reported that the kids traded them in for something else because DDR is "lame". *sigh*)
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2009 03:08 pm (UTC)
I guess that's a credit to human nature: if we're made to do it, we instantly try to find any way to get out of it.

"Hey sir. Mandatory bowling night. Company wide"

I love bowling.

"F*ck. I don't want to go."

Also, while DDR is a good choice for those who like puzzles or video games, placing them in front of their peers where they can be jeered at will not improve someone's like of a game.

It just seems like there should be some other way to help kids be active, but even adults who have infinitely more resources and intellectual ability can't seem to get it right, so why bother right? hah
[User Picture]
Date:September 11th, 2009 11:08 pm (UTC)
> placing them in front of their peers where they can be jeered at will not improve someone's like of a game.

Yes. Completely agreed.

> there should be some other way to help kids be active

There are a lot of ways to help kids be active, and I think part of it is encouraging a fun, positive attitude towards physical activity instead of turning it into "work". There apparently used to be a movement towards not forcing kids to get the right answers in academics (all the "new math" jokes). While that didn't work because there are right and wrong answers in academics, I think the "new math" attitude is exactly what we need for physical education because our bodies function that way. It doesn't matter if a child is the slowest runner in class or if they can't get the football into the tire as accurately as the other kids. If we care about their life-long physical health, they should be applauded for even trying. As long as kids can be compared against each other and found lacking, those who don't do well will learn to hate it (as you pointed out). I think encouraging physical activity has less to do with the variety of activity and more about giving them the individualized attention, support, and encouragement needed to instill the a healthy attitude towards moving around.

> even adults who have infinitely more resources and intellectual ability can't seem to get it right

I believe that's also part of the problem though. People feel that they can't "get it right", so they don't bother. The idea that we can't "get it right" leads to the conclusion that it's too expensive, too much effort, too difficult to exercise. People seem to have some insanely complicated idea of "getting it right", so they don't exercise because they don't want to be "wrong", and they're afraid to "waste time".

I think it would help if people fully understood that it's very easy to get physical activity "right". Taking the stairs instead of the elevator even once is already "right". It's more "right" to do it more often, but taking the elevator tomorrow doesn't "waste" having taken the stairs yesterday. It might be more "right" to spend an hour at the gym with a personal trainer, but it doesn't have to go that far for it to "count" and be "right". Many people who pay personal trainers seem eager to make casual exercisers feel like they're doing it "wrong".

Furthermore, physical activity still "counts" even if we suck at it. If kids are having a great time splashing around in the water, don't tell them that the "right" way is to do freestyle or butterfly strokes. If they enjoy throwing a frisbee or ball wildly and then running after it, then don't make them feel bad that they can't throw the object towards someone or that they can't catch it. If you think about it, kids get more exercise if they can't catch and end up running after it a lot instead. Instead of admonishing a child for not being able to catch, we could be helping to make them feel happy / proud / encouraged to run after it. From a physical activity point of view, it's healthier to not catch the ball well.

DDR actually taught me this. I found that I burn more calories when I'm flailing around and scoring poorly. DDR is a win-win situation: if I can keep up and score well, I'm getting good overall scores, and that feels great. However, even if I'm stomping in all the wrong places, the "calories burned" counter still goes up, and that feels great too. Also, since I often try to go back and hit the right arrow when I get the wrong one, I tend to take two steps for every wrong step, so I burn more calories when I score worse. Even the "wrong" steps "count" towards making me healthier; even the "wrong" steps are "right". Win or lose, I still win.

PE teaches kids that there's a "right" and "wrong" way to get physical activity, so those who do it "wrong" get discouraged about it and stop as soon as PE is no longer required. It's a lot easier to be physically active if we remember that all activity is "right" and "healthy". In this case, the only way to lose is to not play.

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