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April 05, 2005

An antidote to the Segway

It was feared that when the Segway was introduced that the growing sedentary nature of modern life would take a steep plummet away from better physical health. Hope has arrived in the form of the Dance Dance Revolution video game.

The West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency, which covers 215,000 state workers, teachers and their dependents, believes it is the first insurance provider to use the game to cut costs. Konami Digital Entertainment America, which distributes the Japanese game in the United States, knows of no other state or insurance agency using the game for its health benefits.

"Today's kids are tomorrow's members," said the insurance group's Nidia Henderson. "Obesity claims last year cost us $77 million. We have to curtail those costs."

The insurer is providing a game console, dance pad and software for the six-month, $60,000 study. West Virginia University is providing the medical screenings and tracking results.

Hopefully the idea will expand beyond just the one game. The game pad (pictured in the article linked above) lies flat on the floor and is manipulated by the feet, rather than being held in the hands and being manipulated by the thumbs. An affordable game pad like this that could be made to work for other game systems and other games would be a tremendous boom to America's fitness, well, the world's for that matter. As cultures become more technologically advances the opportunities for physical exercise decrease. This idea takes an element of modern technology, irresistible to kids -- the video game -- and turns it into exercise.

I have vivid memories of my nephew (now in college) who, when he was around the age of six played super Nintendo with such enthusiasm that he literally ran around the room while playing. When the character moved, he moved. When the character jumped, he jumped. Most kids don't play like that, but this system would force them to.

From looking at it I would guess that kids who used such a system would also develop some amazing abilities in balance as well as aerobic exercise. A more carefully designed game pad could even add other physical conditioning to the game.

Posted by Danny Carlton at April 5, 2005 09:33 AM

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