Up up down down left right left right B A………. If you didn’t play video games in the 1980’s or 90’s, this phrase sounds more like the crappy directions your aunt Sally gave you to find her favorite fishin’ hole than anything useful.
But as any kid who played video games will know, this is THE cheat code that will give a gamer extra lives…. leading to obesity.
Not that video games make us obese, but it is what many of us as parents fear. We see our children glued to a screen of some sort for days on end, with little regard for anything else other than their cherished electronic addictions. They gain weight as we say to ourselves “When I was a kid, I worked a thousand hours a week on the farm in bare feet, and I never gained no weight. Darn electronic devices!”
When Pokémon Go came out we were excited to see all the children (and not so children) running around getting exercise outside. Sure they were walking into buildings but at least they were outside. But then the fad wore out a bit and the kids are back at the television.
Video Games = Obesity?
Lets take a step back and look at this a minute. It is well established that video games and screen time have a positive correlation with obesity. What that means for us in everyday speak is that people who play more video games have a higher rate of obesity. They are pretty well stuck together like that.
So that means video games cause obesity right? Well that is a solid….maybe. Does the obesity come from sitting more? From mindlessly eating more? Or does it come from things that already have a higher incidence of obesity like race, age, or poverty? Those are all good questions. Unfortunately, science gives this a big question mark for now.
Take it Outside
We do know the mindless snacking and rump sitting that comes with it isn’t healthy for anyone in large doses. Let’s kick out that reason for obesity by taking gaming outside! Moving is good, moving outside is even better. I can’t do anything for you in regards to race or poverty but I can help push you toward more exercise.
Now that is good advice but easier said than done. So to put advice into action, here are a few ideas to get you started.
If you like games with robust story building
Live Action Role Playing (LARP) is just what the name says. You have a story and physically act out your part. I had friends in college that would sword fight in the courtyard but LARP goes way beyond that. It covers everything from extensive battles with intricate costumes to murder mystery dinners to the childhood standby of cops and robbers. You can craft and build your own world with your own imagination. My kids are perpetually in LARP mode. The most common phrase at our house is “In the game…”
So make it elaborate or simple but get out and have some fun! Some countries have really embraced LARPing and you can go to venues and festivals. For the rest of us, you can find character cards and story prompts online or create your own. You’ll see some kids outdoor live action role playing adventures coming from us soon!
If you are into the Zombie craze
Zombies, Run! is a mobile app for, well, running! But it is not a drag yourself to the gym and run on a treadmill running. Because lets be honest, you are pretty easy zombie prey on a treadmill.
Run from zombies, collect supplies, and complete missions all while getting some much needed exercise.
It has a complex story line and over 200 missions so you will be running for awhile. And if you are like me and are not much of a runner, it is perfect because you don’t have to be in marathon racer shape. Although if you want to be in marathon shape, they also have Zombies Run 5K, training plans, and even a virtual race in April 2017. There are a lot of free missions to start you out and a paid option if you want to really dig in.
If you don’t want to leave your video game elements completely behind
Love it or hate it, Pokémon Go threw augmented reality games into mainstream. But adding digital elements to the real world started way before the Go craze.
Ingress is a location based, augmented reality game. That means you actually have to get up and go there! The game is a competition between the Enlightened and Resistance, each faction trying to capture and control energy portals.
Ingress has more than 7 million players worldwide with special events and some local factions gathering in person. Unlike the the brief fad of Pokémon Go, Ingress looks to be going strong. Download it for Android or iOS and take your game outside.
If your looking for a challenge
“Gamification” is quite the buzzword for turning anything into a game by adding some points or badges. But “gamifying” your yard play is not just a buzzword! Create a course or challenge that will really rival a kids video game land.
Think of a ninja challenge mixed with a “life” limit, powerups, and increasingly difficult levels. You don’t need anything special. Just take what you have or can get pretty easily. Boxes, hula hoops, pool noodles, pots, bowls, ramps… The imagination is the limit.
This setup is more elaborate than you need but a great example of having good fun and creativity.
We also set up our own obstacle course type game that the kids loved. They had to avoid lasers, cross the balance beam, weave through pool noodles. We even had a treasure to unlock at the end.
Try a New Game Today
Taking mobile technology outside is not just your boring walk through the neighborhood! Commit to trying at least one new outdoor adventure and you won’t be disappointed. I know I have a few new games to try now. And I see much more LARP in my future with 5 dramatically inclined kiddos.
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