Editorial: Come play (and work out) with us

By Staff Editorial

While the Senate debates whether to include a public option or abortion coverage in its health… While the Senate debates whether to include a public option or abortion coverage in its health care bill, it’s missing a crucial component of American health: video games.

At a meeting for the American Heart Association, researchers said playing the Nintendo Wii constitutes actual exercise.

Before you try to count the next “Legend of Zelda” game as a gym credit, hold on to your pointed green caps. The study targeted games that emulate sports and fitness regimens — a far cry from prowling Hyrule.

The study, which Nintendo sponsored, said one-third of the mini-games in “Wii Sports” and “Wii Fit” meet or exceed the AHA threshold of moderate exercise, according to Reuters.

Admittedly, the study’s Nintendo sponsorship calls its objectivity into question, but gaming has many apparent benefits, especially when combined with exercise.

Healthy habits are the most effective and cost-efficient way to avoid debilitating illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and morbid obesity.

Regular exercise also reduces Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder — something that affects young people as much as, if not more than, the release date for “God of War 3.”

When gaming promotes exercise, players can get these health benefits in enjoyable doses.

Physically, observe the fervent players of “Dance Dance Revolution” in the lower level of the William Pitt Union. They bring fluids to replenish electrolytes lost from sweating more than if they boxed a 10-round bout with Floyd Mayweather.

But those who play “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out” could end up looking like King Hippo. The story of Tanya Jessen spread on the Internet when she said “DDR” helped her lose 95 pounds.

Educational video games, such as “Brain Age” or teaching games, also provide an entertaining way for kids to exercise their cognitive skills.

We’ve already learned many life skills from video games: “The Oregon Trail” taught us to stock up on axles, “Earthbound” taught us how to use an ATM and “Duck Hunt” taught us to hate dogs.

Beyond that, though, video games teach children how to read better, type faster and enjoy math.

Some Pittsburgh video game companies, like Etcetera Edutainment, have already started creating material for this niche market.

“Wii Fit” does not substitute traditional exercise, just as “Geometry Wars” certainly cannot replace Math 0220. But it is better than the sedentary pixilated alternative of MMORPGs or first-person shooters.

Americans are obese. Any fun way to curb that problem is welcomed.

Libraries have even started joining the video game community.

Last Saturday was National Gaming Day at libraries across the United States. It encourages people to come out and use libraries as a social gathering place.

While the struggling Carnegie Library system did not participate, it does offer video game nights for teens on Thursdays and Fridays.

Students sit in class all day, with the exception of recess or scattered gym classes that vary depending on schools and state laws. Then, when they get home, many kids plop down and tune out to a long, isolated session of passive gaming.

Changing the game is easier than changing the behavior, so healthier gaming options can ease modern parental challenges.

If Pitt students really need a video game fix for exercise, bicycles at the Petersen Events Center offer a biking simulation game to make the miles pass a little faster.

Wii isn’t a magic solution for every layabout. It’s just an entertaining way to encourage a little more exercise than kids — or college students — normally get. Diet is still a major factor in health and well-being.

Students looking to avoid the freshman 15 — or 50, really — cannot simply play a hardcore Wii session in lieu of regular exercise.

In the end, all players still need some sunlight — at least until the release of “Wii Tanning.”