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Prairie Fare: Video Games Offer Challenges

Researchers have studied the role of video games as it relates to many areas of mental and physical health.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

My two oldest kids asked for the new video gaming system for months. Maybe I should say they "pleaded."

No, "nagged" is the best word.

Although I'm not a huge fan of video games, the kids' pester power finally paid off. They received a new video gaming system to connect to our TV.

Yes, I was dubious despite the glowing reports they had been sharing about how this would help them improve their fitness.

I've read the research showing that children spend 1,000 hours in front of the TV each year. That's more time than kids spend in school.

Just to name a couple of downsides, researchers report that too much media time can impact school performance and promote weight gain.

I could imagine them tethered to the TV, exercising their thumbs as they tried to keep little characters from falling off cliffs or into oceans.

My kids' new system, however, promotes physical activity. You can bowl, box, play tennis, softball or golf without leaving your living room.

I handed them their pedometers to count their steps. To my amazement, they were amassing large amounts of steps as they jumped around our living room.

I may need new carpet.

My 9-year-old daughter challenged me to a bowling match. She won two out of three, although I think she let me win a game. She's ranked as a "pro" by the system.

Fueled by my competitive streak, I challenged her to tennis. She trounced me. I told her I was tired and declined golf.

I need to practice my swing.

They learned some sports jargon. Suddenly my 12-year-old son was throwing around sports terms such as "turkey," "eagle" and "double bogey."

We learned a little more about technology. We bought an attachment and linked our computer to the system. I now can leave them memos, such as "clean your room."

They aren't thrilled with that feature.

Researchers have studied the role of video games as it relates to many areas of mental and physical health. Some researchers link at least short-term aggressive behavior with playing violent video games. That's good reason for parents to "tune in" to the content of their children's video games and pay attention to the ratings, such as "E" for "everyone."

Limit screen time (TV, computers, etc.). Being sedentary in front of the TV and munching on empty-calorie snacks heavily advertised in commercials can promote weight gain in the short term and heart disease and other illnesses in the long term.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under age 2 and no more than two hours per day for older children.

On the positive side, some researchers have pointed out that children can improve their attention to detail and their eye-hand coordination through video games.

Termed "exertainment" or "exergames," the latest video games promote physical activity and cardiovascular fitness as they lead people through sports events or dance moves in the privacy of their homes.

As with food, keep moderation in mind with exergames, too. At least one incident of "virtual tennis elbow" has been linked to my kids' new gaming system.

Here's a healthy snack to enjoy after a workout, whether it's virtual or "real life."

Peach Cooler

2 c. low-fat milk

1 c. frozen peaches, drained canned peaches or sliced fresh peaches

1/2 tsp. lemon juice

dash of nutmeg (if desired)

If using canned peaches, chill the can in the refrigerator. Put the ingredients in a blender. Blend well. Sprinkle with nutmeg, if you like. Makes two servings.

When made with canned peaches in light syrup, each serving has 190 calories, 2.5 grams (g) of fat, 32 g of carbohydrate and 30 percent of the daily recommendation for calcium.

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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