Console games bring children necessary exercise
Parents’ restrictions can keep children sedentary
A game console is the centre of attention as four-year-old Aleksi and eight-year-old Oskari Holopainen prepare to see who is better at bowling.
There is no ball - just a pair of wireless controllers with motion detectors. The pins tumble on the television screen. Sports games are the favourite console games that the brothers play.
Their favourite sports are baseball, ski jumping, and golf, although they seem to change their minds approximately once a minute.
“Sometimes the games do not interest the boys at all, and sometimes we have to put restrictions on how much they can play”, says the boys’ mother Anne-Maria Holopainen.
Children and young people who spend much time playing computer games may actually be getting more exercise than is generally imagined.
Among the ten most popular video games in the world today are six that involve enough exercise to induce perspiration. These include Wii Fit, which Akseli and Oskari like, and Guitar Hero.
All this comes out in a fresh report by the Demos Helsinki think tank.
The study examines reasons for the lack of exercise among children. The study was commissioned by Nuori Suomi, an organisation which encourages sport and physical exercise among children and youth. It includes interviews with hundreds of experts in different fields.
According to the study’s conclusions, computer games can be absolved of responsibility for a lack of exercise by children.
The challenge posed by a lack of exercise among children may not stem from technology and the increase in playing electronic games, but rather the way that they are used.
Strong growth is expected in the games encouraging exercise. As computers, game consoles and smartphones become more common, the market for “exergames”, which combine entertainment with exercise, has also grown.
Linked with the phenomenon are the social media and physical gaming, online fitness tests, as well as the Megazone laser tag game, which combines group exercise, competition, and technology.
High-tech games are no longer confined to the indoors. They can also utilise the positioning technology of mobile telephones, allowing players to play in both virtual reality and the real world.
For instance, in the Finnish Jungle Race game, players collect virtual prizes by running in the real world.
The Finnish Heiaheia-online service is used to mark down the user’s athletic achievements, and to encourage friends.
According to the report, children need more encouragement in outdoor games, as enthusiasm for fitness is often sparked through playing and games.
The study indicates that parents are sometimes too protective of their children, which leads to a decrease in physical activity.
Climbing trees and digging around in piles of snow are things that many children are not allowed to do.
Constant prohibitions lead to less exercise, and create in children’s minds the idea that society is a dangerous place. However, studies do not bear out the notion that the world would be less safe than before.
In addition, girls should be allowed to play the same games that boys do. Studies suggest that girls get less exercise than boys because they are kept under closer scrutiny.
Akseli and Oskari enjoy playing outdoors. The pride of their outdoor activities is in the back of the yard.
The tree house is accessible by ladder, but the ladder is not always enough, and the tree’s branches are also used.
“Some of the lower branches of the trees in our yard have broken off under their weight”, the boys’ mother laughs.
The report suggests that bumps and bruises are nothing to be too worried about, as they are a part of a child’s life.