As we’ve written on the firstSTREET blog many times, physical activity is extremely important throughout our entire lives. We’ve also often touted the health benefits of video games that include some sort of physical interaction for participants.
A University of Delaware study published earlier this year was one of the first to examine the positive impacts of video games on seniors. Researchers found that seniors who bowled via a video game console for 30 minutes burned as much as 176 calories.
Beth Orsega-Smith, Ph.D., an associate professor in the university’s Department of Behavioral Health and Nutrition and a co-author of the study, refers to these games as “exergames.” She says that exergames can help improve a person’s range of motion, dexterity, and strength. They can also improve balance, lessening your chances of falling.
Of course, the social and entertainment aspects can’t be denied either! Many senior centers, retirement facilities, and similar organizations across the country host video game nights. This weekend, The Carriage Inn in Conroe, Texas, will host a seniors-only bowling tournament. The competition will feature simulated bowling on a video game console. Participation in the event is open to the public, and several teams from local retirement facilities have signed up.
“A lot of seniors are discovering the video games aren’t just for kids,” said Dave Hite, the event’s organizer. “Video bowling, golf and tennis are increasingly popular with folks that are unable to still partake in strenuous physical activity, but enjoy the recreational side of sports.” He adds, “Plus it’s excellent, low-impact exercise which is good for anyone, especially seniors.”
firstSTREET offers a variety of video game options, all of which are extremely affordable when compared to similar systems on the market. The Swinger Video Sports system offers games for bowling, golf, tennis, baseball, and boxing. Using a handheld wireless remote, your actions mimic sports in “real life,” such as throwing punches or bowling balls, or swinging a tennis racket, golf club, or bat. The Turbo Wheel Racing Game offers 50 games including racing, fishing, and shooting, as well as adventure and puzzle games.
The Motion Control Video Game System has over 130 built-in games, including nine interactive sports games such as baseball, table tennis, and golf, as well as 121 arcade-style games. Finally, there is the Guitar Star Video Game, which lets you play along with 10 built-in songs or the songs on your own MP3 player. All of four of these video game systems simply plug into a TV and are ready to play.
Perhaps you would like to host your own “exergame” event like The Carriage Inn is doing. You could do a party in your home for your family and friends, or help organize a league or tournament at your local community center. Keep the decorations and food in theme with whichever sport you are playing, such as plastic bowling pins from the toy store, and hot dogs, nachos, and other snacks typically found in a bowling alley.
You could even have certificates for participants and an inexpensive trophy for the winner. Other supplies you might need include extra batteries for your handheld game controllers, a printed copy of the tournament rules, and a tournament bracket. You can find free, sample brackets online at sites such as Print Your Brackets.