Shaking it with the Xbox

October 10, 2005

Videogame makers are joining the battle of the bulge. If they can entice their couch-potato players to get up and shake their booties a little, more power to them.

One of the most packed areas at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was "Cardio PlayZone," a slightly pungent roomful of gadgets for mixing workouts with play. Baltimore also fielded big interest at its second annual Games for Health conference late last month.

Some games use a motion-sensitive camera to capture a player's movements and translate them into action on the screen. In one, kids swim and dance with Nickelodeon characters; in another, oldsters using their own golf clubs can play through hundreds of the world's golf courses from the comfort of their (high-ceilinged) homes.

Ambitious players can turn themselves into a human joystick. Using a 4-foot-high "steering stalk" devised by Laurel company Powergrid Fitness, players in one study increased their heart rates and burned calories at the rate of 300 to 400 an hour.

Whatever it takes. Nearly one-third of American adults and 11 percent of children weigh in as obese (30 or more pounds over ideal), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fewer than half spend the 30 minutes to an hour a day exercising that the CDC recommends.

Stretching and strengthening the body being faux drag racers or divers surely beats exercising only the thumbs on the likes of Grand Theft Auto.

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