Technology Does Not Equal Obesity
Throughout the years technology has become more and more prominent in people’s everyday lives. Not only do we have it surrounding us in our homes and in our schools, but we also carry it around on us everywhere we go in the form of a smartphone. Most of us literally cannot live without our pieces of technology and praise them for being able to have everything we ever wanted at our fingertips. However, all of that love we have for technology goes right out the window as soon as our children become obese. Technology is instantly what is blamed for the sedentary lifestyle many children in the United States currently have. While this idea sounds like it could be plausible, technology is actually not necessarily the cause for the obesity we see in American children due to lack of physical activity. In fact, technology can actually be one of the reasons we are able to combat the growing rate of obesity in our children. A new form of gaming called exergaming has actually been able to help children get more physically active by combatting some of the main causes of their lack of physical activity.
One big reason kids do not get enough physical activity is because they have low confidence and self-esteem. There are many children out there who are naturally athletic whereas other children are not. In addition, many kids are also trained in a particular sport from a young age and are naturally better at it. Being forced to play these games in physical education classes can make nonathletic kids feel anxious and inadequate and they will participate less than their more athletic counterparts. This naturally puts these children at a disadvantage as they are not actively participating in perhaps what could be their only form of structured physical activity they get. However, utilizing exergaming in a physical education class is something new that almost every kid will be able to participate in at an equal skill level. In an article that described the many benefits of exergaming they found that, “… students became comfortable in the exergaming environment and came to play the exergames more effectively.” Students were able to feel more comfortable by playing exergames compared to the typical games played in a physical education class.
Another reason why some kids lack physical activity is very surprising and rarely thought about however kids from underserved communities typically have less opportunities for physical activity. These underserved communities do not have access to the after-school sports programs for children than more affluent communities have access to. More affluent areas have baseball little leagues and ballet classes for kids of that community which helps those kids understand the value of physical activity and also gives them the opportunities to perform it. Not having access to programs like these automatically puts those kids at a disadvantage and therefore they have less structured physical activity time. Structured physical activity helps teach kids how to properly be active and even instills in them why it is important to be active. A study found that, “Schools reach nearly 95% of children in the USA and are important venues to promote weekday PA participation.” For some kid’s physical education is the only place they can receive structured time dedicated to being physically active. Integrating exergaming into these underserved schools and communities can help allow kids to increase their physical activity and also can hold their interest. Exergaming can be especially entertaining to those who cannot afford to have gaming consoles within their homes.
In addition to lack of opportunities many kids also lack physical activity simply because of where their home is located. Not every child is able to live in a home with a big backyard that they can run around and play in after school. Some have to physically go to a park or other open space just so they can run around safely. Depending on the age of the child they may not have access to this spot whenever they would like. In addition, not all neighborhoods are safe for kids to wander around and play with other neighborhood kids. While some kids are able to leave their homes and play outside all day which allows them to be physically active some kids do not have that option. This severely limits the amount of physical activity that these children can get, putting them at risk for obesity.
So, while technology is typically the go to when finding something to blame pertaining to why our children are becoming obese it is clear that there are actually many other factors that can be blamed. In fact, technology can actually help us turn this problem around and be used to our advantage. Exergaming has some of the exact same benefits as normal physical activity does. In fact, a study found that students who participated in exergaming showed “… improvements in physiological and cognitive outcomes, such as body composition, cardiorespiratory fitness, bone health, cognition, and academic achievement” In addition it was also found that exergaming is more motivating to children and also more enjoyable than the typically games played in physical education. When you really think about how beneficial it can be, incorporating an exergaming program into a physical education class is the best decision.
Exergaming can solve all the reasons why kids are not able to be as physically active as they should be. It helps kids become more confident when doing physical activity and puts kids closer in skill level. Also, since it is used at a school it gives the kids a safe place to come and be physically active. In addition, schools can take it a step further and start after school exergaming programs which further gives kids the opportunity to be physically active. Clearly technology cannot be the first thing we blame when our kids are found to be obese. Instead, you have to carefully consider the other less thought about factors. In addition, we need to realize that when it comes to childhood obesity technology is not our enemy instead it can be our children’s savior.
Ennis, C. D. (2013, July 1). Implications of exergaming for the physical education curriculum in the 21st Century. Journal of Sport and Health Science. Retrieved March 25, 2023, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254613000513
Gao, Z., Pope, Z., Eun Lee, J., Stodden, D., Roncesvalles, N., Pasco, D., Huang, C. C., & Feng, D. (2016, November 24). Impact of exergaming on young children’s School Day Energy expenditure and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels. Journal of Sport and Health Science. Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254616301181
Quan, M., Pope, Z., & Gao, Z. (2018, September 25). Examining young children’sphysical activity and sedentary behaviors in an exergaming program using accelerometry. MDPI. Retrieved March 7, 2023, from https://www.mdpi.com/2077-0383/7/10/302