Video Games Get AHA Seal of Approval to Combat Obesity

Video games that promote physical activity can help reduce rates of obesity and heart disease, according to the American Heart Association, which will give its seal of approval to millions of Wii games.

The American Heart Association and video game manufacturer Nintendo last week announced a new alliance in which the AHA will give its seal of approval to numerous Wii games that promote physical activity.

Although experts recommend traditional fitness activities, such as jogging, dancing or swimming, to boost heart health and keep off the extra pounds, children and adults in America are increasingly sedentary and obesity rates continue to rise. The Association hopes that by giving the thumbs up to Wii games that require players to get moving, couch potatoes will take the first step toward becoming more physically active, reducing the rate of heart disease.

According to a 2009 American Heart Association study funded by Nintendo, about a third of Wii sport™ and Wii fit™ activities provide energy expenditures equal to moderate-intensity exercise.

“The range of energy expenditure in these active games is sufficient to prevent or to improve obesity and lifestyle-related disease, from heart disease and diabetes to metabolic diseases,” said Motohiko Miyachi, Ph.D., lead author of the study and Project Leader of Project for Physical Activity in the Health Promotion and Exercise Program at the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Tokyo, Japan.

Some skeptics have criticized the new joint venture, in which Nintendo will donate $1.5 million to the AHA over three years, claiming that it appears the health organization has merely sold out to corporate sponsorship. Others say that the AHA’s participation in the partnership encourages people to stay indoors and play video games rather than, say, hit the gym. The association notes that it is focused on promoting incremental change, noting in a statement on its website, “if you’re doing nothing, do something; if you’re doing something, do a bit more.”

AHA President Clyde Yancy told the Associated Press, “We can keep beating the drum on traditional exercise and make small changes to the obesity epidemic, or we can try something that is really provocative and new.”

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