Eat & Move-O-Matic

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Use exergames for short activity boosts throughout the school day

In many schools, recess and physical education are being shortened or eliminated, yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend children get an hour a day of vigorous activity. Activity boosts, or short bursts of exercise from two to 10 minutes, can make an important contribution. Of course, teachers can organize activity boosts without any special equipment: kids can jog in place or do jumping jacks. Exergames are another way. Kids get moving, express themselves physically, and enjoy social time with friends.


Three schools in southern New Mexico used the Nintendo Wii Just Dance game as a morning activity for the entire school. Originally intended to curb tardiness, broadcasting the game school-wide first thing in the morning has also energized students and given them something to look forward to. Teachers say that students focus better on academic work after dancing with Just Dance.


One school includes a Just Dance activity boost toward the end of the school day, as well as in the morning. This has helped curb a pattern of early departure (parents were picking students up from school before the end of classes). Students stick around so they don’t miss the afternoon dance session. Another school has expanded the rotation to include Zumba, Just Dance, Michael Jackson the Experience, and Gold’s Gym Cardio Dance, all of which offer activities that can be done in three- to five-minute increments.


Stacey Herrera of Central Elementary uses activity breaks with her first grade students when they are working on a long assignment or an end-of-unit assessment. “After a quick Wii break,” she says, “kids are able to refocus and finish the assessment with ease.” She gets up and dances with the kids and says this improves her energy and stamina.


Teachers are pleased with the use of the games for the morning activity: they believe it gets the kids pumped up and ready to go. One teacher actually closes his door the minute the activity starts so latecomers sit in the hall and miss out. He has almost completely eliminated tardiness. Those teachers who are less strict have still seen a marked decrease in tardiness.


Schools have successfully managed activity boosts using diverse setups including exergaming labs, mass broadcast to classrooms, and individual game stations in classrooms.  Implementation is quite flexible; exergames can work well as a motivating dance for an entire school, a refresher before a test in a classroom, or a targeted incentive against tardy arrival or early departure. The key is that teachers feel confident about the setup. “Train your teachers to utilize the equipment if you really want it to be utilized,” says Tisha Loranc, who organizes the program at Mesilla Elementary.


Making It Work:

–       If you have an exergames lab or a cart teachers can check out, hold a mini-training so teachers become comfortable using the systems on their own. Create a picture guide for reference showing how to set up, operate, and troubleshoot equipment.


–       Provide extra support to teachers with younger students. Teachers with older students will rely on the students to help operate the equipment, but those with younger students will be more likely to use the systems if there is someone they can turn to for help.


–       Set up the system so it’s ready to go, then mute the game or turn off the television. When you’re ready to begin it’s a matter of turning on the screen and starting game play.


–       Schools with broadcasting capability to each classroom can facilitate the whole school doing a dancing game together without having to distribute controllers to every classroom.


Teachers who have access to equipment for their individual classrooms can use activity bursts according to the needs of students each day. Activity bursts are perfect before tests, in the middle of long assignments, or as a reward for an entire class when they have focused well on assignments.

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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.