Getting too much screentime? Probably. It’s hard these days to tear ourselves away from our electronics, and sometimes it’s even harder to tear kids and teens away. Sitting around in front of the television or computer while gaming isn’t great for us physically, as you might imagine—and while games have a myriad of benefits, they can also be hard on your body. Here are some ways we can combat that wear and tear (or lack-thereof).
1. Play Games That Make You Move
Okay, it sounds like something only grandparents do, but exergames come in all kinds of forms. There are dancing sims like Just Dance 2014, sports sims like Kinect Sports Rivals, and even traditional RPGs like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword that utilize the Wii controller for sword-swinging motions.
Researchers from the University of Western Australia, Liverpool John Moores University, and Swansea University evaluated whether exergames have any kind of real impact on kids’ health in a study of 15 kids aged 9-11. Although the sample size was small, the researchers found that the games effectively increased heart rates, improving vascular health, and resulted in an energy expenditure equivalent to moderate-intensity exercise. Moreover, the kids reported that they had just as much fun playing the low-intensity games as they did the high-intensity games—indicating that the enjoyment they got out of the gaming was worth the energy expended! Unlike some forms of exercise, exergames are an activity you don’t need to push kids to do.
Exergames can also help kids find a healthy weight, though it’s important to note that weight is not the only nor the most important indicator of health. If you’re using exergames specifically to improve health, make sure that health is the end goal, and never focus on weight as the only measure worth noting.
Active games can also be an opportunity for families to find a financially reasonable, indoor alternative to real-life sports. Don’t worry, though! A lot of people who pick up exergames end up pursuing other types of activity as well.
2. Take Breaks
This one might seem obvious, but it’s better to schedule breaks than hoping they’ll just happen. Time flies when you’re having fun, and gaming is no exception. Setting a timer to go off every half an hour to an hour is one way to do it. Pausing at savepoints is another. It’s nice to take a real break at least once every hour, too—take a walk around the block, do a load of dishes, have a mini dance party, or play with a pet!
3. Play With Other People
Co-gaming or taking turns with a partner is a good way for everybody to switch things up. One of you can stretch and move around while the other takes a turn.