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Archive for the ‘Be in the Game’

Going From Game back to Exercise (Again)

January 19, 2010 By: Biray Category: Be in the Game 3 Comments →

I was called upon to be the ‘exergaming expert’ for a mainstream magazine for 20/30-somethings. The article’s focus was on using the Wii for exercise. Some of the questions the journalist asked me got me thinking more about the misconceptions people still have about exergames.

During the course of my interview, I made a few interesting observations. The question came up about how to ‘enhance’ game play for the Wii in order to elicit greater health benefits. Enhance, as in, what additional things beyond the scope of game design would I recommend. Or, another way of putting it, what other (non-virtual, non-exergaming) activities would I suggest to complement the benefits of game play. So, if a game elicited a higher cardio response (as most games do, unless they include some form of weight-training exercises), would I recommend a session of weight-training or yoga as a complement to the game? Or, could strapping on a set of wrist weights during game play (shudder!), doing a set of sit-ups while a new level is loading, or wearing a heart rate monitor actually improve a player’s fitness outcomes?

As I was pondering my answers, I started realizing that these questions had nothing to do with exergaming. They were all about comprehensive fitness program design. The exergame just happened to be one of the activities in an exercise regimen. It was no different than if I were asked “would adding swimming to my workout enhance my treadmill exercises?” Sure, cross-training improves overall cardiovascular fitness. And swimming may, on some level, improve your performance on the treadmill. But a session of swimming does not directly change the current treadmill workout. (Unless, of course, you put your treadmill in the water. But then you run the risk of either watering-down the treadmill workout, or simply drowning in it).

When answering the journalists questions, I tried to keep the readers of the magazine in mind. This was a young, mostly female, wii-savvy with an active lifestyle-type audience.  In other words, if the weather was too cold to play real tennis outside, they would play Wii Tennis inside. I imagined, they probably already had gym memberships, fitness DVDs or were the types willing to try new exercises. They probably owned a few fitness exergames (EA sports, Biggest Loser, Jillian Michael’s bootcamp, Your Shape), which are glorified workout DVDs more in-line with traditional fitness activities. This was the audience who would probably get a kick out of doing a lunge matrix off the Wii-Balance board or adding 2lb weights to their hand-held controllers. Not that there’s anything wrong with any of this, mind you (but they probably would jump at the opportunity to use an underwater treadmill, too).

But are articles like this doing exergames a disservice? Does it send the message to fitness enthusiasts: playing these games is not enough, you have to add something more. Does it send a message to the game designers: people are outgrowing your games, make more? Or, is it missing the mark completely. What message does it send to the people who really need to be active: you can’t escape exercise, be it at the gym or during game play, at some point you’ll have to do a sit-up.

When did game play go back to being exercise, again? Why are people not focused more on promoting the game play aspects of these games? Stop talking about how these games burn calories or its cardiovascular benefits or, gasp, how to make it more challenging! Everytime a sedentary person associates these games with exercise, we, as a health industry lose their interest! It’s a game, first! The health-benefits are built-in.

EA Sports Active Uses the term “Gateway”

December 28, 2009 By: Biray Category: Be in the Game 1 Comment →

EA Sports Active

I was watching TV the other night when a commercial for EA Sports Active came on. Now, EA Sports Active launched in early 2009 and continues to build its community and workout options for its consumers. So the commercial was no surprise. However, I noticed something in its marketing that was slightly different than how other exergames or active game products are being promoted. During the commercial, the voice-over actually stated that this game was “a gateway to an active lifestyle” (or something to that effect). In other words, THEY USED THE WORD GATEWAY!

You’re probably wondering why this is a big deal. I’ll tell you.

For the longest time one of the major criticisms of exergaming (especially from the fitness professionals) was that it could never replace ‘real’ or ‘traditional’ exercise. This argument came at a time when researchers were studying the physiological responses of game play (primarily in terms of energy expenditure) and comparing them to traditional cardiovascular exercises. While these comparisons were only meant to validate exergames as a viable form of physical activity, fitness pros were skeptical in promoting these games that were, in essence, doing trying to do their jobs.

Exergame evangelists and researchers knew that exergames were not the same as ‘traditional exercise’, but somehow this idea was diluting, if not, discrediting the exergaming industry. So, in health conferences, game conferences and games for health conferences, people started to emphasize the terms “gateway effect” as one of the effects of exergames – as if to say, these games helped build confidence and self-efficacy with those who may otherwise never try typical fitness activities. Hence, exergames have a gateway effect to an active lifestyle.

I imagine when marketers create a campaign for exergames, they are focused more on selling product than developing a lifestyle. I doubt they’ll ever say “come try our product for a while so you can build the confidence to go do other activities and in turn stop using our product”. Hencewhy the term ‘gateway’ may not be applicable in this arena. Unless… unless the gateway is to other activities or games that the company also provides.

So, when I heard the EA Sports Active’s commercial insert the term ‘gateway’ into their commercial (albeit ever-so subtly and in the middle portion of the commercial), I was caught off-guard. Because by saying that it means two things: 1) Someone on their marketing team certainly has their pulse on the exergaming scene – maybe they are sending people out to various conferences, etc. and 2) EA Sports is expanding their services beyond just their games, to build an active brand and community so people who are ‘gateway’ing into an active lifestyle are doing so with EA Sports Active by their side.

Exergame Experts wish you “healthy holidays” with Video Games

December 21, 2009 By: Biray Category: Be in the Game 1 Comment →

(Re-Blogged with permission by The Exergame Network)

The holiday season is always a health rollercoaster. We eat too much, watch too much TV and exercise too little and then make New Years resolutions that we can’t keep. This year, make a change with Exergaming. The Exergame Network (TEN) reveals five ways of getting fit with video games, perfect for school kids to silver gamers with fun as the focus!

The good news for these holidays is you can over-indulge in fitness and fun by Exergaming. Exergaming is the combination of video games and exercise, ideal for a fun, social way to keep fit during the festive period. The Exergame Network brings you five Exergaming methods to suit everyone regardless of their age, ability or fitness level.

Most health and fitness resolutions revolve around dieting and joining a gym, but this doesn’t work for everyone. So what about the rest of us, those that dislike gyms, dieting, boot camps or just find conventional fitness boring?

idancekidsExergaming succeeds because it makes exercise fun and involving. The exercise seems less difficult and second to the enjoyment of playing. Choosing the right style of Exergaming is vital in making it fun for you! The following CREWS list is a ’something for everyone’ selection from five Exergaming catagories (for an interactive tour visit CREWS ):

1. Camera Exergaming – Your whole body becomes the controller as your movements are motion captured into the game (Eyetoy:Kinetic/Groove/Antigrav, Your Shape, Project Natal & Trazer 2)

2. Rhythm Exergaming – Become the musician or dancer and be guided by the music while the exergame records your dance steps or your musical timing. (Rock Band, Guitar Hero, We Cheer, DDR & iDANCE)

3. Exergaming Machines – Using real fitness equipment, the fun of the games takes your mind of the exercise. (Gamercize, Gamebike, Fitclub, GameCycle, BrainBike & Expresso Bikes)

4. Workout Exergaming – Follow your virtual personal trainer as they guide you through your workout giving feedback on your form and storing your progress. (EA Sports Active, The Biggest Loser, Your Shape and Wii Fit Plus)

5. Sensory Exergaming – These commercial exergames get you jumping and running for your score. (Lightspace Play, Makoto, BodyPad: Tekken 5, SmartUs & TWall)

T.E.N. reminds you to think of ‘CREWS’ as an amazing way to engage, motivate and sustain exercise over your lifetime! To discover more about Exergaming, get practical advice and more information from TEN or connect with us on twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook . Now enjoy what some of the leaders on Exergaming have to say and how Exergaming can truly benefit everyone!

“Exergaming Machines are a time saving way to keep me fit. Last week I clocked up over 9 hours of genuine cardio, just by playing the latest Xbox release! It is important that everyone finds the Exergaming method that works for them, if you enjoy the activity there’s more chance of keeping at it and reaching the fitness benefits. Nothing kept in the back of the cupboard will improve health.” Richard Coshott, Gamercize Founder and CEO.

“People who normally don’t like to be physically active are willing to try Exergaming because it’s FUN. Parents tell me that this is the first time they’ve seen their kids sweat this much…and they don’t want to stop playing the exergames! Exergaming is the best intervention for the “couch potato”, and introduces physical activity that’s fun for the first time in their lives.” Ernie Medina, Jr., DrPH, CHFS, preventive care specialist, Beaver Medical Group; CEO & “Exergaming Evangelist”, MedPlay Technologies.

“In Physical Education, we strive to provide a safe and positive learning environment that supports the needs and abilities of our students. Exergaming, in its many forms, is available in schools (before and after-school), at home, and in the community and thus has the potential to impact students.” Stephen Yang, Ph.D-ABD, M.S., B.S., Co-Director ExerGame Lab, Assistant Professor, State University of New York College at Cortland.

“Exergaming offers an alternative method of increasing heart-rate and building muscle bulk for those with disabilities. Real-world boxing, for example, offers an excellent aerobic workout for many able-bodied individuals, however is impossible for many with disabilities. Video-game based boxing, however, allows for simulated boxing with an avatar that is safe and achievable, while simultaneously being aerobically challenging. ” Sheryl Flynn PT, PhD, Co-Founder


TEN is a not-for-profit and non-affiliated Games for Health advocacy promoting an active and healthy lifestyle by combining video games technologies and exercise, known as Exergaming. Exergaming is proving to be an excellent way to increase motivation, energy expenditure and overall fitness. TEN is a collaboration of dedicated health and fitness practitioners, exergame developers, researchers and clinicians, health and fitness entrepreneurs and passionate individuals devoted to highlighting the best solutions offered by exergaming.

IDEA World Fitness Convention – 2009

August 11, 2009 By: Biray Category: Be Connected, Be Fit 'Round da World, Be in the Game, Just Be Fit 2 Comments →

One of the reasons I return to IDEA conferences year after year is because their vision really resonates with me: “To Inspire the World To Fitness!” Every time I go, I am motivated by the energy of my fellow attendees, challenged by the new perspectives of my colleagues, and lured into buying stuff at the expo (though I’ll try not to spend any money this year – LOL).

Although I will be attending as presenter this year, I am looking forward to being educated, as well. So often we are wrapped up in our own field that we neglect to follow-up on research in other areas. Since exergaming and fitness technology are the main focus points of this blog, I often enjoy going to sessions that complement my knowledge – such as, lectures on stress & nutrition, workshops on creating successful boot camps, and cycling workouts that make me sweat.

This year I will be presenting the following sessions:

#105 and #185: R-KAIDE: The Newest Way To Score Points (Workout) (co-presenter Fred Hoffman)
#405: From R-KAIDE to the Aerobics Room: Video Games Get Active (Workshop) (co-presenter Fred Hoffman)

#248: Blogging Basics (Lecture)
#278: Marketing Your Blog in All the Right Places (Lecture)

#474: Managing a Multi-Generational Staff (Panel with Amanda Vogel and Fred Hoffman)

Over the next few days, I will be blogging my adventures here. Feel free to join me there!

Drawing Parallels between Web 2.0 and Games for Health

June 08, 2009 By: Biray Category: Be Fit 'Round da World, Be in the Game 2 Comments →

This week I will be attending the 5th Annual Games For Health Conference and have created a complementary blog to document all the exciting events!

I will also be delivering a short-short presentation about the similarities between Web 2.0 and Games for Health audiences and platforms. Below is a description of my session:

How do certain Web 2.0 technologies impact people’s health and fitness decisions? Are the audiences who spend hours of screen time in online destinations like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Second Life similar to the audiences who are drawn to exergaming and other games for health? Which outcomes from playing video games parallel those who micro-blog, engage in online social networks and nurture their avatars in virtual worlds? As programmers and researchers, what can we learn from making these observations?

Since the advent of broadband technology and the increased prevalence of wireless networks, the web has evolved into a powerful, interactive and ‘real-time’ environment – allowing content to be much more user-centric and user-generated. And because of this shift in digital culture, more fitness professionals are embracing online tools to create everything from fitness podcasts to cyber coaching sessions.

The objective of this brief, informal session is to bring these ideas to the forefront of our conversations, as they relate to games for health. More research is needed in this area and potential collaborative efforts could benefit from having gaming/web-based hybrids.

ACSM Health & Fitness Conference

April 10, 2009 By: Biray Category: Be Fit 'Round da World, Be Fit With Jetsons, Be in the Game No Comments →

Fred Hoffman and I co-presented a session entitled “Embracing Interactive Technology: Positioning Your Group Exercise Department for Success in the Next Decade” at the ACSM Health & Fitness Summit this year in Atlanta, GA. Below is our session description and the abbreviated version of our presentation.

Session Description: Similar to the aerobics phenomenon of the 80’s, the coming decade will mark a turning point in group exercise with Interactive Technology playing an important role. Learn how these up-and-coming trends will affect your future programming, budget planning, staffing, and marketing. Discover 5 essential technology ‘must-haves’ that will guarantee success in the next 10 years.

2009 Fitness Trends

January 19, 2009 By: Biray Category: Be Connected, Be Online, Be in Tune, Be in the Game No Comments →

Every year the American Council on Exercise (ACE) publishes their top 10 predictions for the fitness industry. This year, technology-based fitness was included as a major upcoming trend:

Technology-Based Fitness: From iPods to Cardio Cinema to exergaming (i.e., Wii Fit, Expresso Bikes) the latest in technology will continue to infuse itself in all aspects of fitness. Look for 2009 to provide more interactive video games that provide fitness benefits, as well as new inventions to make exercising a more engaging experience.

Although more programs will be enhanced through technology, 2009 will be the year where we will see less resistance from fitness professionals and commercial health clubs to adopt these newer technologies into their mainstream programming. For the past few years, there have been questions whether or not these alternative programs (such as, exergaming, fitness-related podcasts, online training, etc.) would be sustainable or even complementary to the efforts of most fitness professionals. I have heard many of my colleagues ask (and rightfully so) if these ideas would be short-lived or truly the beginning of a new era in fitness. And ACE confirms that this trend will only continue to grow. (Yes!)

For fitness pros and health clubs owners, 2009 will be less about immediate implementation of techno-based fitness programs (primarily due to economic concerns and the high costs associated with some technologies). Instead, growing efforts will go towards ‘behind-the-scene’ preparations for a stronger, bigger market-entry in late-2009, early-2010. Preparations that may or may not include: 1) offering and/or attending trainings on new technologies (i.e. workshops on fitness podcasting, certifications for exergaming, etc.); 2) budget considerations for future equipment purchases and club renovations to attract a new demographic; 3) recruiting or organzing staff/employees for new departments and fitness roles… and much, much more, I’m sure…

With that said, to all fitness professionals who are interested in marrying technology with their fitness efforts, I say: take this year to educate and experiment with new technologies (if you aren’t doing so already)! Attend sessions at conferences that introduce and discuss these topic areas. Talk to the early-adopters of these technologies and learn from their research and successes! Be a part of this conversation!

This year I will be discussing many of these topics in my sessions at IHRSA, ACSM, and IDEA World. Check my speaking schedule for exact times and dates.

Happy New Year!

Exergames on FoxTV Arizona

October 06, 2008 By: Biray Category: Be in the Game 6 Comments →

Monday night I was featured in a news segment reported by Keith Yaskin from Fox10 News. The segment was about video games and exercise – was it a legitimate form of physical activity? It basically answered the question most consumers want to know – “Can you lose weight by playing video games?”

I had the opportunity to play a few rounds of tennis on the Nintendo Wii with Keith (which I let him win ONLY because I thought it would be nice to give him the chance to feel victorious). I also demonstrated the ‘workout mode’ in the game Dance Dance Revolution, as well as, feature a produce called Gamercize.

Below is a recording of the segment that aired on TV (sorry for the poor quality… I was rushed for time to put it up. For a clean version, go here) Enjoy!

I hope this media only adds to the growing exposure exergaming continues to get. I imaging it helps people recognize this is not just a trend – but sign of what’s to come in the world of fitness.

Exergames at PodCampAZ

September 23, 2008 By: Biray Category: Be Connected, Be Mobile, Be Online, Be in Tune, Be in the Game No Comments →

In case you haven’t heard – PodCampAZ is coming to, well… Arizona, of course! Mark your calendars for this 2-day new media UNconference from November 1-2, 2008. This will be my first year as an attendee and a presenter. I’m totally thrilled to be a part of this event. (I imagine it will be like a mini SXSW-interactive).

Speakers gather to discuss topics ranging in film/video, print, TV, mobile, radio, IRL, and advertising. The newest member to the media party is interactive category, which certainly creates more opportunities to feature topics on exergaming and games for health. The session I will be presenting is entitled ‘Exergaming: Health Outside the XBox’ and the description goes as follows:

“Nintendo Wii and games like Dance Dance Revolution have propelled the exergaming phenomenon forward! Exergames are video games requiring players to be physical active during game play. In this session, discover their 25-year history, the scientific research to support game play and various applications in health and fitness.”

Read up on the speakers and topics and find out more about the event here.

Be there to help people answer the hottest new media question… “What’s your source?

Chandler Gets Fit!

August 29, 2008 By: Biray Category: Be in the Game 4 Comments →

I went from being appalled to applauding in less than 24 hours!

Mayor Boyd DunnThe mayor of Chandler has called out the residents of the city to a wellness challenge. It’s the Chandler Gets Fit initiative, urging everyone to do their best to incorporate more physical activity during the day. The website lists 30 (count ‘em) THREE ZERO fun and easy activities to try. And not one of those activities is an exergame. [Where is Ernie, the exergaming evangelist to spread the word of exergaming in our city's time of need! We should have a cool way to summon you, Ernie - like a bat signal except for exergames!].

I was appalled that exergaming wasn’t on the list! So, I decided to write Mayor Dunn an email sharing my thoughts. I wrote the letter last night in an emotional state. So I decided to sleep on it before sending it this morning. The email went at 9:11am today. Here is the excerpt from my email:

Dear Mayor Boyd W. Dunn,

I am a strong advocate of programs supporting increased physical activity in our community and I was very delighted to see your ’stamp of approval’ on the Mayor’s Wellness Challenge. It is devastating to see how sedentary we have become as a society and any bit of encouragement towards being more active helps.

However, the list that was posted on the website (the one that included 30 ideas to help people be more active) was missing one popular, culturally timely activity: exergaming (video games plus exercise). Exergaming, such as playing Dance Dance Revolution or the Nintendo Wii, has been a hot topic among fitness professionals, researchers and health educators. It is a comparable alternative to traditional forms of activity, like walking, cycling and kickboxing. What most people don’t realize about exergaming is that it has the potential of being a ’stepping stone’ to other modes of activity (such as those listed in your 30). Those who may not feel comfortable participating in fitness or sports-related events may find exergames beneficial in other ways, such as building confidence and self-esteem (which can translate into other areas of life), as well as, weight-loss and increased fitness.

Please include exergaming on this list. I know it may be a small favor to ask. But simply adding ‘exergames’ helps strengthen the research that supports active video games as an accepted form of physical activity. After all, Chandler’s very own Tumbleweed Recreation Center has an entire room dedicated to exergaming.

At 9:53am (in less than an hour!), I got a response. (I was quite surprised at his quick response, actually). Here is what he wrote:

Dear Mr. Alsac,

Thank you for the e-mail and for your interest in the Wellness Challenge. You make an excellent point and we will soon add exergaming to the site as a way to stay healthy. I appreciate the input.

Mayor Dunn

Did you read that?! He used exergaming and healthy in the same sentence! This must be applauded. I will have to personally shake his hand on October 18th at the “Chandler Day of Play” event when the Mayor will recognize all of those who stayed active during his challenge.

The fact that I was referred to as a ‘mister’ instead of a ‘miss or ms.’ in his email is, at this point, forgiving. ;)

Another one for the exergaming team! [Ernie would be proud!]