Fight flab with video game

Written by Geoff Richards

January 27, 2006 | 17:05

Tags: #obese #overweight #video-game #wil-harris

For literally decades now, lobby groups have claimed that video games would produce a generation of obese children. In an ironic twist of fate, video games are now being used as a weapon in the fight against obesity.

West Virginia has one of the highest rates of obesity in the US, which considering the average girth on the other side of The Pond, is really saying something. They may still eat deep-fried Twinkies but kids aged 10 to 14 years in the state's 157 middle schools are going to be crafted into mini Richard Simmons-a-likes using none other than Dance Dance Revolution.

The program started last Spring, with 20 schools taking part and it is hoped that all 753 schools state-wide will participate within three years. If the scheme is a success, presumably it will roll out across the country.

For those living outside the Land of the Free, here are some scary facts about why obesity is such a problem. In round figures, one third of the population are classed as Obese, which is roughly 14KG or 30 pounds over a healthy weight. Even worse, some two thirds of the country are now at least 4.5KG or 10 pounds overweight.

You'd think this was an adult problem; a product of years of burger munching but successive generations are getting fatter, younger. The Institute of Medicine screened 31,000 fifth-graders over a six year period between 1999 and 2005 and found nearly half the group were either overweight or obese. At age 9.

With this program, it is hoped that children and parents can be educated about the risks of obesity before it is too late.

"If we can get children to change their behavior at a young age they hopefully will grow up to be healthy, active adults, which would have a positive effect on health care costs," said Carl Callison with Mountain State Blue Cross. Nidia Henderson from the Public Employees Insurance Program added "One out of three children born in West Virginia today will have diabetes by the time they grow up. That's a devastating statistic and not acceptable."

It is hoped that by getting the kids jumping left, left, right, right they will lose weight, lower their blood pressure and risk of diabetes.

Bulging beltlines are also placing increased pressure on the health system here in Britain so we want to hear your ideas for losing weight using video games. Ditch the latest FIFA game and venture outside and kick a football around. Forget Virtua Tennis - have a knock about yourself. Your heart will thank you for it.
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