Physical Education, Meet Gaming” by Sarah Fudin was originally posted on Navigator.

One in three children are now considered overweight or obese, according to a study from USC Rossier School of Education. As a result, many schools are feeling pressure to ensure their students get adequate exercise and healthy meals, which has recently caused an innovative meshing of video games and the physical education curriculum.

When evaluating these new methods to infuse physical activity in schools, it’s helpful to take a deeper dive into the schools’ role in a students’ health and how this can be supplemented in innovative ways.

Schools’ Roles in Student Health

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services children and adolescents are recommended to get at least one hour of combined aerobic and strengthening exercises each day. With physical education being a requirement in schools across our country, all schools have physical education classes for students in every grade, but the amount of required activity varies from sate to state. In Connecticut, for example, elementary students must get at least 20 minutes of physical education daily, while New Jersey requires 150 minutes a week. Many schools have also taken part in the Healthy Schools Program, created by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. This six-step program encourages schools to offer healthier food options, eliminate sugary beverages and offer daily opportunities for physical exercise.

Video Games to Supplement Physical Education

To analyze the benefits of video games in physical fitness, the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services conducted a study focused on minority children in Washington D.C. They followed 104 children from grades three through eight and compared traditional physical education activities with two video games, “Dance Dance Revolution” and “Winds of Orbis: An Active Adventure.” While students used more energy overall to complete traditional physical education activities, the students that played video games actually moved enough to meet “intensity criteria for vigorous activity.” Researchers did not recommend replacing traditional physical activities with video games but using video games as a supplement. Video games can provide an alternative to students who may not enjoy traditional games, like basketball. Interestingly, video game developers have already come up with classroom-ready games, like Dance Dance Revolution’s classroom edition.

In a Classroom Near You

A number of schools across the country have already introduced video game platforms like the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect into the classroom to inspire students to exercise. In The Journal, Missy Sheehan describes one instance of the trend: At Hedgesville Middle School in West Virginia, students were highly receptive to the introduction of Nintendo Wiis into the classrooms. “Just Dance 3” was one of the most popular games chosen by students for its incorporation of modern music and dance moves. This option was particularly appealing for students who felt uncomfortable playing traditional sports. Physical Education teacher Meghan Smith stated, “A lot of the kids that don’t like to play sports are the ones that like to do this the most. So it makes me feel good that I can get kids involved in things that they like to do.

About the author: Sarah Fudin currently works in community relations for George Washington University’s online MPH programs, which provides prospective students the ability to earn a online Masters of Public Health. Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and all things education.

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