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Using exergames in physical education

Because exergames can be an enjoyable and effective part of daily physical activity, they have a place in physical education for youth. However, exergames should not be used as a substitute for a PE program, but they can be used to supplement teaching and equipment. Physical education adds physical activity to the school day and teaches students about maintaining fitness throughout their life. While game players can learn rules or experiment with new sports virtually, exergames are not a replacement for instruction in more traditional physical activities. Teachers can add exergames to their routine as an option during inclement weather, to enable large groups to exercise at once or as individualized stations in which each student can select their own activities.

Examples of programs using exergames in physical education

At an elementary school in Las Cruces, NM, the PE teacher offered ‘exergame days’, twice a week. She set up four stations, serving approximately 50 students simultaneously: DDR on a PlayStation2 where several kids danced together at once, a dance game on a Wii with four controllers and other students dancing behind, a Wii with sports games and four controllers, and a Xavix running game with one student on the pad controller and other students running as well. She gave each a colored plastic spot, which assigned them to a particular station, and then had them rotate throughout the class. She and her assistant came in early on exergame days to set up and then take down equipment before lunch, and though set up was challenging, she felt the extra effort was warranted. Students looked forward to exergame days and as a result several students and their family’s added exergames to their home use. Several advantages of exergame use were that it enabled multi-age play, as students in 1st and 5th grades could play together, and youth of different abilities could enjoy the activity as well,  particularly those unable to participate in traditional activities, including those with physical limitations.

A PE teacher at a small early college high school on the Texas, New Mexico and Mexico border offered exergames as part of her workout stations in a wellness class with 18 students. She set up two exergaming stations, as well as other stations like jump rope and strength training with weights. Her students were able to experiment to find the types of physical activity they liked best, and she modeled for them the role that exergames can play in a larger fitness or activity plan. Because this school has no gymnasium or other fitness facilities, exergames were particularly useful. This PE teacher used a variety of exergames to inspire different types of activity among her students, including dance and traditional exercise games. Some games she used included: Just Dance 2, Michael Jackson the Experience, Zumba, Jillian Michaels Fitness Ultimatum, Gold’s Gym Dance Workout, DDR Extreme, EA Active More Workouts.

The PE teacher at a small charter school in Las Cruces used a variety of exergames in her classes so that her students could try out new exercises they may not have been exposed to including yoga, martial arts, boxing, Zumba, and dance- all of which she wanted to share with her students, but felt uncomfortable serving as the instructor.

The PE teacher at a southern New Mexico elementary school has figured out a way to reach her entire class with only one Nintendo Wii, one screen and one room. She uses Just Dance or similar dancing games to give students their physical activity on days when it is too hot to go outside or when the mosquitos make it impossible to go outside. The PE teacher brings out the Nintendo Wii and a projector on a portable cart into the school’s cafeteria. Four students are chosen to hold the Wiimotes during the song and the rest of the class lines up behind them to join in the dancing.  Once a song is chosen, the screen projects on the wall and dancing begins. The Wiimotes are rotated out among the students.

Chamberlin, B., Maloney, A., Gallagher, R. R., & Garza, M. L. (2013). Active video games: Potential for increased activity, suggestions for use, and guidelines for implementation. Serious games for healthcare: Applications and implications (pp. 191–212): IGI Global.

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Funding Information

© 2013. NMSU Board of Regents. All rights reserved. This project was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the National Research Initiative (Grant #2008-55215-18837).

About Us

The Exergames Unlocked project includes a multi-state team of accomplished media education researchers, exercise physiologists, medical professionals and doctoral students. Contributing members are researchers in their fields and have helped launch the use of exergames as tools to combat obesity in their communities and beyond. New Mexico State University researchers and their partners have been funded to research the impact of exergames, develop specific recommendations for exergame use, and implement exergaming programs. As part of that project, this website provides access to resources based on research, sample projects, and input from the exergaming community. For more information, contact the project director: Dr. Barbara Chamberlin, Professor, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service
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Why Exergames Unlocked?

Why Exergames Unlocked? Exergames are videogames that encourage physical activity. Here, you’ll find the best and most effective exergames, as well as strategies and recommendations on using them with different audiences and in different locations.