Lilly Vanden Bosch gets moving with nurses Jamie Albert, center, Christina Barton, and Lilly’s mom Meg. They enjoyed a round of Just Dance exergaming during her treatment at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. (Chris Clark | Spectrum Health Beat)

Active video games or “exergaming” can be a fun way to move and has recently grown in popularity.

There are still reservations about how much, how often or at all. It’s about moving and movement has benefits.

While exergaming is not a replacement for going on a walk or playing a game of basketball, it has its place and can be a great rainy day or family activity.

Like any activity, the benefit comes from how hard and how long you move.

If the temptation is to sit on the couch and flick your wrist as if you’re playing tennis, then the benefit is minimal, at best. However, if you stand up and go after it like you’re in the Grand Slam championship, then you will gain much more.

The key is to get your heart beating faster, increase your breathing and yes, even break a sweat.  When you are working at this level, regardless of what you’re doing, you will start gaining health benefits.

Active video games have benefits for all:

  • Exergaming can be a gateway to other activity. When someone doesn’t feel confident with sports skills like swinging a tennis racquet or swinging a baseball bat, they are less likely to participate. Getting some practice in the privacy of your own home can build your confidence in moving.
  • Exergaming improves cognitive abilities and balance. Yes, even grandma and grandpa can benefit.
  • There’s nothing wrong with some healthy competition and exergaming forces you to bring your “A game” to the table. Do your best and show your competition some hidden talents. Who knew mom was such a good three-point shooter?
  • Exergaming helps you burn extra calories and keeps your metabolism elevated. It definitely is a break from sitting and turns up the fat burning.

Are you looking for an alternative to family game night? Make it interactive with an active video game and bring on the laughter and togetherness.

The bottom line is exergaming can be a good alternative to outside activity when weather doesn’t permit for outside play. It’s certainly better than traditional video games.

Once you find the balance between this type of screen time and other activities, go ahead and let the kids play or join in to build the family bonds by being “active” together. Game on!