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CCU Atheneum: Professor Brooke Towner challenges Tim Meyler to snowboarding on the Exer board.
Professor Brooke Towner challenges Tim Meyler to snowboarding on the Exer board.

Need a break? Exergaming now available at CCU

by Corrie Lee Lacey
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Throw away those old dumbbells; electronics have met sport. Imagine someone encouraging you to play more video games. It could be a good idea if it is an exergame.

Coastal Carolina University’s exergaming lab is introducing faculty and staff to a new way to exercise and have fun – and you won’t even need a spotter.

This new phenomenon involves playing video games that require a physical element. According to Timothy Meyler, a lecturer in the School of Health, Kinesiology and Sport Studies, exergaming allows those who may not otherwise participate in physical activity to find a way to be active and burn calories.

“There are people out there who don’t care about lifting weights or are bored with the same physical routine,” says Meyler. “Exergaming allows those people to engage in physical activities or acts as a supplement to their workout.”

Christine Rockey, professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science, says her whole family enjoys video game exercise.

“At my house, we own a Wii and a Wii fit,” she says. “It is something fun for us to do as a family.”

Coastal’s new lab offers a variety of exergames including Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), Cateye recumbent bike, Exer board, Wii Sport and Wii Fit, Xabis and Tredwall – all of which give a great workout in little time.

DDR, a game in which players stand on a dance platform and hit colored arrows with their feet to musical and visual cues, was exergaming’s pioneer, one of the first such games to catch the attention of mainstream media.

“People were dumping quarters into the DDR machine and dripping sweat,” Meyler said. “It wasn’t long before people started noticing that playing this video game was really burning fat.”

Brook Towner, teaching associate in the school of health, kinesiology and sport studies, says she loves practicing on DDR.

“I have DDR nights and end up sweating by the end of my 30- to 60-minute session,” Towner says. “I guess you could think of it as a new way to cross train and give your body a break from high intensity, high impact cardiovascular exercises while having some friendly competition on the DDR mat.”

The Treadwall, a rotating climbing wall that moves by body weight, is also a big hit among exergame users.

“We’re very excited to have the treadwall here at Coastal,” Meyler says. “People are really getting pumped up.”

Coastal’s exergaming facility is open to all faculty, staff and students from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 5 to 7 p.m. Friday and Sunday. The facility is closed on Saturdays.

Coastal is also bringing academics to exergaming. Health promotion and recreation sport management professors have held classes in the lab.

“I think the exergaming room is a great way to be exposed to activities that you can continue at home with a relatively minimal investment,” says Rockey.

Research is also being conducted on traditional aerobic exercising versus exergaming. The study found that exergame users tend to be more motivated during a workout, and that users improve on a mile run after playing exergames more so than those who use traditional aerobic methods.

“With so much research done on the value of physical activity, exergaming is a great way to get people moving,” Rockey says. “So many people claim to hate physical activity but if we can get them moving by having them play a game, it is a great alternative.”

According to Meyler, although there are many benefits to exergaming, it may not be for everyone.

“This isn’t for the athlete with 3 percent body fat,” Meyler says. “It’s for people who may hate physical education but want to stay active. Or for those with disabilities. It may be great way for an overweight person to start a workout plan. The exergaming lab is really for anyone trying to find their workout niche.”

Towner says she’s read articles about nursing homes implementing the Wii into their scheduled activities and how it can assist with balance and coordination in that particular age group as well.

“Exergaming reaches outside the population that is motivated by traditional exercise and taps into another group of people and encourage them to get active,” Towner says. “Gaming does not have to be a sedentary activity anymore.”

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