Exergaming; unplug and play
March 2008
Shape Up America! Newsletter


Thank You!
Shape Up America! (SUA) sends a thank you to GlobalFit of Philadelphia, PA, a provider of healthy living programs, for their generous donation to SUA on behalf of their employees and the 1,400+ members of the GlobalFit family of corporate partners, fitness club providers and employers, including:

Enterprise Rent-A-Car
Complete Fitness/Pittsburgh
Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic States
CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield
Stanley Works
Men's Wearhouse
Holmes Place/Chicago

We greatly appreciate your support!

Active Gaming: Getting Children Moving
by Lisa Hansen, MS
Childhood obesity continues to plague our society, and finding a solution seems to be a complex and difficult task. The two known modifiable risk factors for obesity are diet and exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), our children are simply not getting enough physical activity in their daily routines.1

There are many factors that contribute to this decline in exercise, including a decrease in recess and physical education classes offered in schools and an increase in sedentary activities such as television viewing, computer use and playing video games. Technology has been an enemy for many physical activity advocates, as these electronic gizmos continue to attract and fascinate our youngsters, keeping them from engaging in activities that promote physical activity.

Recently, a new genre of video games has emerged that offers a new approach to gaming through physical activity. Simply stated, players become a "human joystick," using their bodies to control the actions on the screen. This innovative approach to physical activity is called exergaming, and its popularity is spreading rapidly across the nation in health clubs, recreation centers and schools.

The concept of exergaming is not complex. The goal is to provide children with increased levels of physical activity as they play the video games they enjoy.2 No longer does exercise have to be something in which children just persevere. The exergaming phenomenon is aligned with the present culture of children being referred to as the "gaming generation," and is an appealing alternative to traditional physical activity for children.

What does it look like to participate in exergaming? Imagine yourself on a snowboard racing against a friend down a snowy mountain dodging trees, jumping cliffs and riding rails. Or maybe you prefer to pedal fast and race your dirt bike through a challenging course full of steep ramps, sharp turns and dangerous off-road adventures. Or perhaps you prefer to test your dancing skills, scoring points for staying on beat while stepping to the tunes of your favorite songs. For a real virtual experience, strap on a magic belt that puts you inside the video game. Move quickly and jump high to keep those balls from smashing on the floor, or avoid the trap attack by trying to collect as many red dots as possible. It's a fantasy world where exercise is not the main objective; playing the game is!

Exergaming as a new concept in children's physical activity is relatively unresearched. Much more research is needed to completely understand what effects exergaming may have on participants. However, there is evidence that playing active video games does increase physical activity levels and can provide benefits for participants.3,4 Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) is a popular exergaming activity and research has found that DDR participation meets or exceeds the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommended heart rate intensity for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness.5,6

A study in West Virginia implemented an intervention program using DDR activities in all of the public middle schools. Results demonstrated that of the 50 overweight children who participated, no subjects gained weight and there was evidence supporting a reduction of several risk factors such as diabetes and heart disease.7 Additional research on individual exergaming activities include evidence that video game bikes are effective in enhancing exercise adherence, and significantly improve several markers of health status in sedentary college-aged males.8 A study on the more recently popular Nintendo Wii showed that playing an average of 12.2 hours a week could burn 1800 calories.9

At the University of South Florida (USF), several pilot studies have been completed with promising data that support the use of exergaming as a tool for children to become more active and enjoy participation in physical activity. Some of the pilot research results suggest an increase in heart rates with a low rate of perceived exertion, an increase in voluntary physical activity and an improved perception of exercise. As observed in the USF XRKade research lab, both overweight and physically fit children are finding participating in exergaming activities a success-oriented and fun method of being physically active.

"High tech" gaming in the form of exergaming activities has become more and more attractive as technology continues to develop. Although exergaming is not a replacement for traditional physical activity, it is undoubtedly an appealing option that provides benefits specific to increasing physical activity levels in children. Exergaming may not be the only solution to childhood obesity, but it is certainly a step in a positive direction.

Lisa Hansen, MS, and PhD candidate, is Co-Director of the XRKade Research Lab at the University of South Florida. She is a member of the National Association for Sport & Physical Education (NASPE).

Unplug and Play: A Community Campaign to Reduce "Screen Time"
by Cathy Costakis, MS
One of the major players in this obesity crisis is the dramatic number of hours that children watch television, sit at computers, and play video games. As parents, it is critical that we enforce the rule that children have 2 hours or less of total screen time each day. Pediatrician, Bozeman, MT

Children are growing up in a "digital age" and researchers are finding that this is increasing their risk for a lifetime of health problems. Too much "screen time" (TV, recreational computer use, video games, DVDs, etc.) has been associated with overweight, junk food consumption, lower reading scores, poorer school performance, violent behavior, sleep pattern disturbances and the development of unhealthy habits later in life, such as tobacco use and alcohol abuse.1,2,3

Because of the negative health effects of TV, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended no TV viewing for children less than 2 years of age, no TVs in the bedroom, and limiting TV viewing to no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day for children over age 2.3 There is significant evidence that these guidelines are not being followed. In fact, over one-third of children under the age of 6 and more than half of 8- to 16-year-olds have a TV in their bedroom.4,5,6 In addition, a 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that total daily media exposure of children 8-18 years old is as high as 6 hours!7

In 2007, in response to how media impacts the lives of children, particularly as it relates to overweight, the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity program (NAPA) spearheaded a pilot project called Screen Free Week in Bozeman, Montana. The goal of Screen Free Week is to promote active living, reduce sedentary behaviors and motivate kids, families and adults to turn off non-educational "screen time" for a week. The long-term goal is to help families moderate the use of TV/screen time and live more active and healthy lives.

This community-wide campaign has brought together a wide variety of partners, which we now call our Screen Free Task Force, and includes over 20 groups such as the local library, school district, museums, cultural center, child care programs, university, physicians, outdoor science programs, recreational programs and after school programs, as well as the business community, local newspaper and many others.

Our task force works together to educate the community on the effects of screen time on children, to promote alternative activities in the community, and to showcase these activities during Screen Free Week. Last year, over 700 people participated in more than 20 very low cost or free Screen Free Week events, in which local programs and community members demonstrated a variety of activities for children and parents, other than watching a screen.

We created a calendar of these activities and wrote articles describing alternative activities and tips on how to reduce screen time, and put them in a 30-page insert that the publisher of our local newspaper generously offered to produce and insert in the paper and over-run by 3,000 copies so we could hand them out around the community. Our school district (by a show of hands) found that over 500 elementary and middle school children participated in Screen Free Week by reducing their screen time, and over half of those went completely screen free for the week.

This year, our active task force is planning to disseminate this pilot statewide through health departments, school districts, libraries and other community organizations.

We know that the "digital age" is here to stay and we also know that limited exposure to high-quality educational screen media may offer some benefits to children over the age of 2. Parents can best help their children in this area by being good role models, limiting the time their children spend watching TV and other screen media, monitoring the content they are watching, and encouraging alternative activities that are healthy and more social. Community campaigns to reduce screen time can help parents become more aware of the issues and give them the facts they need to help guide their children toward healthier lifestyles.

Cathy Costakis, MS, is the physical activity coordinator for the Montana Nutrition and Physical Activity (NAPA) Program to Prevent Obesity and Other Chronic Diseases, located at Montana State University-Bozeman. NAPA is a statewide program funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Stanford Pediatric Weight Control Program Training Institute
March 18-21, 2008
The Pediatric Weight Control Training Institute is a four-day program at Stanford University to train and certify providers to deliver the Stanford Pediatric Weight Control Program at their own agencies/organizations. The Institute provides the principles, skills, practice and materials needed to run a successful weight-control program, including access to an exciting new interactive world wide web resource to help providers manage their program from recruitment to completion, set appropriate behavior change goals, monitor progress, provide feedback and provide reports for both providers and patients. Attendance is limited to a small number of organizations to provide intensive, individualized training and coaching.

Who should attend the Institute?

Health Educators, Nutritionists, Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Pediatricians, Family Physicians, or other health or educational professionals looking to implement a proven successful, intensive treatment program for overweight children and their families.

What is the tuition?

The tuition is $5000 for the first person from a single organization or program and a discounted tuition of $1250 for each additional person, up to four individuals from the same organization. The tuition includes the four-day intensive training and all training materials, as well as continued access to a unique interactive web resource, and coaching and technical assistance when you return home.

To request an application or for additional questions about the Training Institute, e-mail spwcpinst@stanford.edu or call 650-724-7742.

Menus for Weight Loss and Healthy Eating
Shape Up America! offers these simple, convenient 1500 calorie and 2000 calorie menus to help you eat healthfully while controlling your calories. If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to e-mail us at newsletter@shapeup.org.

My Story
Kim found that friendly weight-loss competition at her workplace and the support of fellow employees were great motivators for success.

I work in an office with a lot of other women, and while we work, we also SIT. We sit for 8 hours a day. Well, our boss decided we all need to get healthy together this year, and we agreed. We started our version of "The Biggest Loser" program. Having said this, you can tell that several of us need to lose weight, and we needed real motivation.

What speaks to women most (besides food) is shopping, so we made the reward for this not only lost weight, but cash in our pockets. We all put in $50.00 to start, and at the end of 10 weeks we will see which of us has lost the highest percentage of weight. The money will be split like this: 1st place-60%, 2nd place-25% and 3rd place-15%. The winner of our program will take home $720.00 and leave the weight behind.

We are all pumped about this. There are as many "diets" as there are people in the program. Some are doing the Atkins diet, South Beach diet, adding walking, lifting weights, cutting out second servings at mealtime, cutting out the bread and sweets, and so on. We have our company Wellness Coordinator weigh us every 2 weeks. The percentages are kept confidential until we expose them at the finale. We offer each other encouragement, eating tips, recipes, snacking ideas, etc. The environment here is exciting since most conversations include our success stories to date. Read More…

If you would like to share your personal success story and be an inspiration to others who desire to lose weight, simply use our story submission system on the SUA Web site.

Recipe of the Month
Apple is the surprise ingredient that makes this fiber-rich recipe unique and tasty.
Apple Chicken Stir-Fry
Makes 4 servings


  • 1 pound cubed boneless, skinless, chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • ½ cup onion, vertically sliced
  • 1¾ cups (3-4 medium) carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1½ teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen Chinese pea pods
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 medium baking apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice


  • Stir-fry cubed chicken breast in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in non-stick skillet until lightly browned and cooked. Remove from skillet.
  • Stir-fry onion, carrots and basil in 1½ teaspoons oil in same skillet until carrots are tender. Stir in pea pods and water; stir-fry 2 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in apple.
  • Add to chicken, serve hot over cooked rice.
  • Nutritional analysis per serving: 330 calories, 8 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 66 milligrams cholesterol, 30 grams carbohydrate, 29 grams protein, 5 grams dietary fiber, 117 milligrams sodium

    Source: Fruits & Veggies More Matters®

    phone: 406-686-4844

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    Editor: Adrienne Forman, MS, RD

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