Dr. Maureen Becker, director of clinical education for the Willowbrook college’s Physical Therapy Doctoral Program, is using three New York City-area students (Rachel Pollack of Willowbrook, Emily Cochran of Grasmere and Shirley Coffey of Brooklyn) — to study the most effective ways in which young people can get a real-world workout with Nintendo's Wii Fit. The study began in June, and focuses mainly on tween girls, because, Dr. Becker says, girls tend to have a higher obesity rate than boys in the same age range. So far, twenty teenaged girls have participated in the research.
The study is also a follow-up to a 2009 study that used less intense games played for five-minute-long sessions. That study found those 15 minutes of cumulative play, participants burned only a little more than half the daily minimum energy expenditure recommended for children, or 150 kilocalories.
“What that was telling us is if we changed some of the games, we could get a higher level of energy expenditure,” Dr. Becker explained.
In the follow-up study, subjects fill out a questionnaire asking about their health, exercise routines and their Wii Fit use at home. Before each session, subjects' blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels are calculated, and their weight and height are documented to calculate Body Mass Index (BMI). Sensors are attached to the subject’s feet, thighs and chest, which send information to computer software that calculates energy use.
“When we first look at the data, we look at them as one group, and then we categorize them [based on weight] to see if there are differences in energy expenditure,” Dr. Becker explained. “We want to see if weight has any affect on the games they’re doing and how many calories they burn.”
After the preliminary measurements, the girls do a six-minute warm-up, followed by eight minutes each of the mini-games (Free Run, Super Hula Hoop and Advanced Step). In-between each activity, a one-minute break is taken, during which their blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen levels are checked. They are also asked to rate the difficulty of their workout. After they are done with their session, the girls spend five minutes culling down and relaxing.
Researchers say they chose these particular Wii Fit games because they incorporate the whole body and offer a decent cardiovascular workout.
“If you had to stand there and do the run for 18 minutes [to burn 150 calories], would you do that more than a few times?” she asked. “Probably not.”
After data is collected from this study, researchers say they plan to continue their video game research through the College of Staten Island's (CSI) Physical Therapy Doctoral Program. the next phase, says Dr. Becker, will compare Wii Fit to games on the Xbox 360's Kinect system such as Zumba on the Wii and Zumba for Kinect.
“A large part of this whole thing is to educate parents and health and physical education educators in the field,” Dr. Becker reiterated. “And, also see if we can bring some of what we find to manufacturers of active video games so they can take what games expend the most energy when deciding new video games,” she said, noting, “The Wii has become an exercise tool for so many people.”
Source: Staten Island Live