Promoting Physical Activity and Learning in Laboratory and Field-Based Research
Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences
Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences
In 2007 the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) released physical activity recommendations that expanded on those initially endorsed by the U.S. surgeon general in 1996. Specifically, these updated recommendations state, “... all healthy adults aged 18-65 years need moderate intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days each week or vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum or 20 minutes on three days each week” (Haskell et al., 2007, p. 1425). For children and adolescents, the current recommendations are 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on a daily, or near daily basis (USDHHSUSDA, 2005). It is well understood that regular participation in physical activity can reduce the risk for numerous chronic disease conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, and several forms of cancer (ACSM, 2005). However, obesity rates are still climbing among adults and children in the United States, despite one of the national health objectives of Healthy People 2010 to reduce adult obesity to below 15 percent nationwide (USDHHS, 2000). Recent estimates suggest that 73 percent of children and 50 percent of adults in the United States do not perform regular physical activity (CDC, 2007), and that close to 365,000 deaths each year in the United States can be ascribed to a lack of physical activity and poor nutritional balance (Mokdad, Marks, Stroup & Gerberding, 2004).
For many years health professionals from physical educators and sports coaches, to physicians and exercise physiologists, have implemented all manner of programs to improve physical activity levels among both the general and specific target populations. Few of these efforts have achieved long-term success for large numbers of individuals needing improvement in their physical activity commitments and overall health. The seemingly omnipresent need for more innovative motivational tools and better intervention approaches to increase physical activity thus continues to be advocated from a governmental and institutional perspective on a national level. Last year within our own academic and surrounding communities, we expanded on and added several initiatives, laboratory and field-based, to promote physical activity through a combination of both nontraditional pursuits and “lifetime” activities in both children and young adults.
Addressing Obesity Through Video Game Play
The first of our research endeavors examines the utility of what some might consider a rather unorthodox mode of physical activity to serve as a viable means to meet the current physical activity recommendations outlines by the ACSM and AHA – a physically interactive video game, the Nintendo Wii Sports program (Nintendo of America Inc., Redmond, WA). Specifically, the project involves examining the average energy expenditure generated when playing 30 minutes of the Nintendo Wii Sports tennis game, which will allow for further in-depth assessment of exercise intensity, an important yet often understated component of physical fitness programming.
Understandably, many people may have reservations about encouraging video game use among children and young adults, given the commonly held belief that video gaming, computer use, and television watching are positively related to physical inactivity and higher obesity levels. Indeed, research has suggested a strong negative correlation between physical activity and obesity with television watching among children (Salmon, Timperio, Telford, Carver, & Crawford, 2005), but surprising to some, a similar relationship has not been observed for physical activity and video gaming among children (Marshall, Biddle, Goreley, Cameron, & Murdey, 2004). For college students, the relationship between television watching, video gaming, and computer use is even less well established. Buckworth and Nigg (2004) suggested that as computer use, not television watching, increased among college students, the amount of moderate and vigorous physical activity decreased. The popularity of video games among children and adults, however, is clear – in 2007 alone, the U.S. video game industry pocketed approximately $18 billion, with the Nintendo Wii system becoming one of the top-selling console systems (NPD, 2008). This system represents a growing trend in video gaming, that of physically interactive video games (PIVGs) – programming that requires the player to stand and move around to bring about a desired effect on the video screen (via a handheld motion controller). Scientific and anecdotal reports support the utility of PIVGs to encourage, albeit indirectly, participation in physically active pursuits. Greater levels of enjoyment and adherence to a physical activity program have also been expressed in interventions incorporating an interactive video game (Warburton et al., 2007). Energy expenditure levels associated with playing several popular PIVGs currently on the market, such as Dance, Dance Revolution (DDR; Konami of America, Inc., Redwood City, CA) and Eye Toy (Sony Computer Entertainment of America, Foster City, CA), have matched or exceeded minimal recommendations over a 30-minute game play period (Luke et al., 2005).
Results from the 2003 National College Health Assessment suggest that 32 to 47 percent of college students are physically inactive (ACHA, 2005). Although activities such as walking and cycling can be used as common models of physical activity, many college students do not report enjoyment of these traditional physical activities (Leenders, Sherman, & Ward, 2003). Identifying more enjoyable and nontraditional ways of acquiring recommended levels of physical activity has been suggested as a means to overcome the reluctance of young adults to participate in physical activity, and video game manufacturers seem to be tapping into this market with increasing fervor. Therefore, it makes sense to appeal to current trends and the interests of a given population. Even though popularity is not in question, our project will provide some initial insight into whether the Nintendo Wii Sports games can serve as a viable alternative to walking or cycling in meeting current physical activity recommendations, a claim that, despite anecdotal support, is still largely undetermined.
PIVG as a Pedagogical Tool
A major objective of physical education programs is to teach children a variety of motor skills that will promote future involvement in sport and physical activity. Current physical activity and obesity trends in children are disturbing – approximately 30 percent of 6-11 year olds are thought to be overweight and 15 percent obese (AOA, 2005). According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (2005), children between the ages of 8 and 18 years spend approximately 44.5 hours per week watching television or occupied on a computer or video gaming system. While these statistics are frightening, electronic media do offer a potentially viable learning medium for the presentation of skill practice, development, and reinforcement. The process of skill acquisition is limited without adequate practice opportunities in a developmentally appropriate setting that provides progression and application of skills.
The Nintendo Wii Sports tennis game, when combined with physical education instruction, provides a medium through which to practice tennis-specific skills while receiving feedback from a teacher. As a PIVG, the Nintendo Wii Sports tennis game has the capability to simulate competitive tennis play and to practice a wide variety of strokes (forehand, backhand, overhand, and lob) in a training/non-competitive situation. Other PIVGs, such as DDR, have shown the potential to link integrative technology and physical activity in physical education curricula with enthusiastic responses from students. If the Nintendo Wii system can be used as a tool to aid in skill acquisition, then it may help facilitate learning in physical education settings and encourage participation in lifetime physical activity.
Our second line of inquiry targets the potential application of PIVGs as a teaching tool to promote leisure time physical activity and enhance physical education instruction. Beginner college aged tennis players will be randomly assigned to one of four conditions (Wii + court practice, Wii practice only, court practice only, control) to explore the efficacy of the Nintendo Wii Sports tennis game to elicit improvements in backhand groundstroke performance.