University of Calgary


June 18, 2009

Jumping joysticks: studying ‘exergames’

L-R: Foundations For The Future principal Cathy McCauley, Kinesiology researcher Larry Katz, Mount Royal College researcher Dwayne Sheehan / Photo: David Moll
An innovative research project is hoping to discover whether the new generation of ‘exergames’ can really impact on youth fitness, and perhaps help with the growing incidence of obesity among Canadian youth. Exergames are a new trend in video games that combine an element of exercise with traditional gaming.

The research centre, located in the Foundations for the Future Academy, is a collaboration between the school, the University of Calgary and Mount Royal College, funded by the Community Initiatives Program through the Alberta Lottery Fund.

The school plans to integrate exergames into the school’s regular physical education program using programs such as i-Dance (a wireless, multi-player system), Wii Fit and Exerboards. Over the next five years, researchers will conduct a series of studies to assess whether the games offer any real benefit to fitness, learning or motor skills development.

Foundations principal Cathy McCauley says she’s already excited by what she’s seen. The kids are definitely excited about the project and very enthusiastic,” McCauley said. “The games seem particularly appealing to kids who aren’t usually the athletic type—children who are usually a little more self-conscious or awkward seem to have the chance to shed their inhibitions and really get into it. This research project also gives us a chance to see the integration of technology into our Physical Education curriculum in a way that is very meaningful and relevant for kids of this generation.” 

The project’s research director, Larry Katz from the U of C’s Faculty of Kinesiology, says the games aren’t a replacement for more traditional physical education, but could be a valuable addition. “No one has done any quality, formal study on the impact of these interactive games,” said Katz.

“What I find exciting is the idea that kids who don’t enjoy traditional gym class or sports might find an activity within these exergames in which they can be successful—an activity that they can enjoy anytime. It may mean that kids begin to think of fitness as part of life, as something that regularly happens outside of a formal gym class or sports activity.”

The school plans to use the fitness data that the children collect on themselves in various classes including health and even mathematics. Katz says that this kind of personal data, which has real meaning to kids, can go a long way toward helping children to become more engaged in school.

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