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exergaming

noun [uncountable]

the activity of playing video games that provide physical exercise

exergame

noun [countable]

exergamer

noun [countable]

'A push for new frontiers in the fitness market, an aging gamer population, and increasing rates of obesity among the young are all fueling the trend toward exergaming.'

PR Web 18th August 2007

'… And the strategy that many developers are pursuing involves the new genre of exergames … hybrids between instructional workout DVDs and immersive game environments.'

Business Week 22nd November 2005

'… prolonged dancing on the dance pad results in blisters and pain in the knee joints due to the repeated stamping movements … To avoid such injuries, Dr Tan advised that exergamers should also include other conventional forms of exercise into their fitness regime, such as running or swimming.'

The Straits Times 13th March 2007

Need to lose some weight? Look no further than the nearest games console. Yes, seriously. There was a time when the world of playstations and video games was strongly associated with the lifestyle of a couch potato, a person condemned to an unhealthy diet of inactivity through mesmerizing screens. But not any more, thanks to the new trend of exergaming

The principle is simple: combine the idea of physical exercise with the compulsive stimulation of video games, and hey, presto, you can keep fit whilst having fun – or that's the theory. And it's proving very compelling in a society which needs to tackle obesity and other health problems associated with 21st-century lifestyle.

The games software underlying the concept, referred to as the exergame, has emerged as big business across the leading manufacturers. In 2005, Sony launched a product called Eyetoy: Kinetic, a workout game designed for its PlayStation 2 console, which incorporates exercise regimes intended to tone the body and promote cardiac health. Utilizing the console's internal clock, Eyetoy: Kinetic is a fitness programme lasting a number of weeks, and even incorporates a fitness instructor who gets angry if a player misses a date!

interestingly, the popularity of exergaming is not confined to younger generations

At the more light-hearted end of the spectrum, there is the Nintendo Wii console and Wii Sports, launched in 2006. The popularity of the Wii hinges on its novel use of the game controller, cleverly referred to as the Wiimote (a play on remote, as in remote control). Rather than just acting as a static game controller, the Wiimote can be held in a range of orientations, and functions as a tennis racket, golf club, bowling ball, baseball bat and boxing glove, among others. A forthcoming exergame product, entitled Wii Fit, will also incorporate a balance board, recording players' weights and enabling them to practice yoga, do press-ups and even a virtual ski-jump!

Interestingly enough, the popularity of exergaming is not confined to younger generations. An up-and-coming breed of exergamers are the over-60s, who find the less strenuous exercise associated with many of these games more appropriate to their needs.

Enthusiastic exergamers of all ages should, however, watch out for the newly coined ailment Wii elbow, a soreness and pain in the arm joints caused by excessive Wii game-play (based on the expression tennis elbow).

Background – exergaming

The expression exergaming is, of course, formed from a blend of the words exercise and gaming. Although the term itself is relatively new, the concept has been around for some time. Initial attempts to develop exergaming products date as far back as the early 1980s, when for example video game manufacturer Atari developed an exercise bike that could be hooked up to one of its early games consoles.

A generic term in the same area is exertainment, referring to activities or products involving both exercise and entertainment. This follows the model of other new expressions describing dual-purpose entertainment, such as edutainment (entertainment with an educational function), charitainment (entertainment for charity fundraising ) and infotainment (information / current affairs presented in an entertaining way).

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 11th December 2007.

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