Saturday, May 31, 2008

RWJF announces $2M for games for health

5-29-08: The RWJ foundation announced the first round of grants awarded through it's Health Games Research national program. More than $2M in grants were awarded to 12 research teams to help strengthen the evidence that games for health is a legitimate intervention with desirable outcomes.

To read this press release, click here.

Thanks to Mark Martens, Founder of Pantometrics, LTD, for providing this info for me. His company is collaborating with Union College (NY) on one of these 12 awards. Congrats!

Post ACSM conference

5-31-08: Here's an update on my last conference for this month! Now I can relax a bit (till Dec., when I speak at the Medical Fitness Assoc. conf.). This was the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting, one of the biggies. It's the most prestigious sports medicine org. in the world, with 20,000 members world-wide. This year, the conf. was held in Indianapolis, the site of the ACSM headquarters.

With hundreds of sessions to choose from, attendees have a bewildering variety of topics, spread across the convention center.

Here are some highlights of my 3 days there.

Poster sessions: During the conf. posters of unpublished research are on display in part of the expo hall. Every morning and afternoon, I did a quick perusal through the boards and came across some exergaming research.

Lisa Leininger, of CSU Fresno, presented this poster comparing RPE and enjoyment between exergaming and treadmill exercise. She found no sig. diff. in RPE between the two, but did find a much higher enjoyment doing DDR. When I asked her on her RPE results, she thought that maybe it could be due to the fact that the subjects only played it twice before getting tested on it, and they were all newbies at it. She's interested in doing more exergaming research so we should be seeing her e-mail in our online discussions. Welcome Lisa!
Viki Penpraze is a researcher from the Univ. of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. Interestingly, did not know of exergaming researcher Alasdair Thin, also from Scotland. (They have since been introduced in cyberspace and plan to meet in person when she returns to Scotland). Her research was on the physiological cost of exergaming in children. She found that the Eye Toy Boxing and DDR had higher heart rates, VO2, and greataer ActiGraph activity counts compared to traditional video game play. I also invited her to join our exergame advisory network so we welcome her as well.
Here were a couple of posters (but no live person that I could find) featuring a new game that I had never seen before: Lasersquash! It's a Dutch product, out in 2004. Looks very interesting and would be interested in trying it out.

One of the sessions featured the President of ACSM, Dr. Robert Sallis. He happens to work at Kaiser Permanente here in SoCal, not too far from us! One of his main initiatives that he's spearheaded was the creation of "Exercise is Medicine", a collab between ACSM and the AMA. I had spoken to him last year, so I went up and re-introduced myself and told him more about exergaming and invited him to come by and visit us sometime. He seemed interested so will keep in touch with him via e-mail.
The acting US Surgeon General Steven Galson, also spoke on "Exercise is Medicine". I wanted to talk to him more about exergaming (since both mentioned the "evils" of video games in their presentations) but his aide was rushing him off to another appointment so all I could do was give my business cards to him and told him to check it out. I hope he does!
In case he doesn't check it out, maybe Melissa Johnson, the Executive Director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness, will mention it to him. ;-) Here am I with her, and we always get a chance to chat at these conferences. I told her more about my idea for hosting xrgaming tournaments and hopefully we can figure some way to collaborate on this idea.
On Friday, I and Bryan Haddock (CSU San Bernardino) presented for our session, "Games for Health: PA Tools for the Digital Generation". I had to go first since right after my Q & A, I had to leave during Bryan's talk to catch a taxi to the airport! I basically presented a background on exergaming, gave a case study on XRTZ, the various clinical applications, and research opportunities.
Bryan, who is the main PI on the majority of our exergame research, talked about the research that is out there and what he's done. I wish I could've stayed to hear him present it!
While the crowd is sparse, it's one of the largest rooms there and given the tough time slot of 3:15 PM on a Friday afternoon (the 3rd day of meetings), we were happy to have the 50+ people there to hear us. That means that many more people have had the exergaming seed planted in their brain! I especially made an appeal to the grad students in the audience to consider doing research in the exergaming arena, so hopefully we'll have more presentations at prestigious conf. like ACSM in years to come.
Speaking of planting seeds, just before our presentation, I got a chance to meet 2-time Olympian, Sheila Taormina. Here I'm wearing her gold medal that she got in swimming at the 1996 Olympics @ Atlanta. She also competed in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics in triathlon. And this year, she is going to Bejing to compete in the Pentathalon. She will be the first person to compete in 3 different events in the Olympics! She was very friendly and down-to-earth, and I told her all about exergaming so maybe after she's done with this Olympics (she plans to "retire" from competitive sports after that), we can get her involved with exergaming! She lives in Detroit, MI, so we'll have to get an exergaming facility set up near her. Follow her quest on her blog.

And so ends this conf. Lots of good sessions and contacts were made. Met researchers interested in doing exergaming research, like on the Wii Fit with seniors. I'm planning on submitting something for the 2009 annual meeting (deadline is June 20) so that we can continue to have an exergaming presence within ACSM. One of my ideas is to submit something where we have people who rec'd this first round of funding from the RWJF--there are 12 of them so we can certainly get some of them to present at next year's annual meeting in Seattle. Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

XRTZ, Seniors, and Wii in the news!

5-23-08 Check out the article in the Press Enterprise today on how XRTZ is working with the Dept. of Aging to get exergaming in 35 seniors centers!

DC trip Part 2 - the US Dream Academy Gala

5-21-08 Wed. night was the big gala. Here are some of the shots...

Before the gala, Diane Booker, J.D., Exec. Dir. of the US Dream Academy, took some time out of her very hectic schedule to meet with us XRTZ folks.
Before the gala, there was a VIP reception for special guests and sponsors. Here a US Dream Acad. board member, Jody Victor, speaks with us.
Gene Edelbach and I pose with co-emcee, Cynne Simpson, an award-winning journalist who anchors the ABC7/WJLA-TV Weekend Evening News. She actually grew up in Sacto, CA! She was very gracious and an excellent co-host.
Judy Peterson chats with Dr. Ben Carson, famous pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins.
The Phipps and the Carsons.
Judy and Sheila pose with Wintley Phipps.
Bill Ming, who's wife Diane is on the board.
Got my picture with Wintley, Cynne (far right), and Keyshia Cole, a famous singer.

The XRTZ team! Joel (COO/Co-founder) & Judy Peterson, yours truly, Sheila Hodgkin (Advisory Board Chair & Chief Development Officer), & Steve Hodgkin

Cynne was a co-host with Chris Tucker, the actor in all 3 Rush Hour movies with Jackie Chan. He was hilarious!!!
Keyshia gives her testimony, inspiring everyone there, especially the kids.
The US Dream Academy Choir sang a rousing song, written by none other than Senator Orrin Hatch!
Peabo Bryson entertained us with his powerful voice.
Hanging out with my r-ball bud, Ted Im!
Jennifer Holliday gave a soul stirring performance, including her signature song, "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going".
The man below has an incredible story. While serving jail time, he saw a 3ABN story about Wintley's dream to start up the US Dream Academy. Hearing about their mission so moved this man that he told his grandmother to liquidate some of his assets and will forever be known as the first large investor of the US Dream Academy with his $10,000 gift. This was a turning point in this man's life, and after getting out of prison, entered the ministry and is now a SDA pastor in Acton, CA! His name is Pastor Emiliano Richards, and it his being there at the gala was his first time to meet, in person, Wintley and the rest of the staff. Amazing how US Dream Academy started changing lives before it even was open!

At the end of the evening, a bunch of us were able to get a shot with Actor/Comedian Chris Tucker (Rush Hour trilogy).

Thursday, the group did more touring, visiting the White House, going to a Congressional lunch (and more networking with Rep. Jerry Lewis's wife), etc. I ended up oversleeping in the very comfy bed at the Park Hyatt, so I had packed and had lunch in Georgetown before catching a taxi back to the airport for our 3 PM flight home.

There will be more pictures from the others in the group, but at least you have a glimpse of our whirlwind trip to DC. Lots of excellent contacts were made with key people in government and within US Dream Academy. Our plan is to work with them to get a center set up in San Bernardino in conjunction with Operation Phoenix, a local inner-city program for kids of incarcerated parents. You can read about how XRtainment Zone is getting involved with Operation Phoenix here. We are planning on doing the same with US Dream Academies around the US. Who knows? Maybe one of these lives that is saved may turn out to be the next Dr. Carson or President of the USA?

DC trip Part 1

5-24-08 Last Tues., May 20, 21 of us left on a red eye flight from LAX to Washington Dulles airport for a whirlwind time in DC. Our main reason for going was to attend the US Dream Academy's gala. XRTZ, thanks to Dr. Steve and Sheila Hodgkin, was one of the main sponsors that evening. In addition to the gala, we had time to tour around DC, as you can see....

Thanks to Steve and Sheila, some of us got to ride in style from their house to the airport. We had a toast at the start of our trip...
As the rest of the group came in, we were camped out in LAX waiting for our flight.
Arriving around 6 AM after over 5 hours on the plane, we attended a breakfast for Californians hosted by Senator Diane Feinstein. She was very articulate and a gracious host. I'm with my co-founder/COO, Joel Peterson, and his wife, Judy.
Here's most of our group--I think we were still missing one more couple.
While we were walking from the Senator's building over to the capitol in the underground tunnels, guess who this Senator that we met?
No, this isn't a ride in Disneyland, this is one of the underground trains that they have to get from one government building to another quickly. Our rep. can't be late for a vote or filibuster!
Getting a fine tour by 2 of Sen. Feinstein's interns, both from CA.
This is the very center of DC, and the spot used to survey everything from here. It's made out of a soft sandstone, and legend has it that if you step on it, you get good luck!
I made sure to step on it with both feet, so I could get double-good-luck. ;-)

While in DC, you have to try out the metro at least once!While waiting for our train, the women pose on the platform.
On the mall near all the Smithsonian museums.
The mall was a lot bigger than I imagined...
I got to see the Wright brother's airplane!

After touring around, it was time to go great ready for the gala....

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sat. night interview with Penda

5-17-08: Sat. night, I spent some time talking with Penda, an "Aerobic Group Fitness Professional Instructor Extraodrdinaire and self-proclaiemd Goddess of Virtual Fitness". Check her website here.

She become an expert in the area of using the Wii in "group exercise" and is doing some excellent work researching and using this in the real-world setting.

We covered a lot of ground in our hour-long talk. If you'd like to hear the blogtalk interview, or see any of her other interviews (such as the history of the Wii), you can click here to get to her blogtalk URL. She said she's working on a text/pix blog so we can see and read all the various events and things she's doing with the Wii, and soon, the Wii Fit.

Check out what Penda is doing in Atlanta. She's one of the few people I know of that has really promoted the use of the Wii in group exercise. Hopefully, we can get her to present at next year's Games for Health conf. and run a demo session!

First negative report on Wii Fit?

5-16-08: Wow, the Wii Fit hasn't gone on sale yet here in the States, but already a potential storm is brewing, based on when you configure your Mii when you first set it up. Having just sets up my Mii today for the first time, I went through all the assessments and one of the assessments was my BMI (body mass index) and where I was at, healthwise (normal weight, etc.).

Turns out that an article reports of a story in the UK, a 10-year old girl's BMI was high enough that the Wii Fit said she was "Fat". This upset her and her dad, and now obesity experts are calling for Nintendo to change this or at least warn parents that their kids could be "harmed" by this game.

This is actually also of debate in the medical community--especially among pediatricians on how they should talk to their little patients. Some say they need to call it what it is, while others say it could damage their self-esteem, especially girls, leading them to eating disorders and distorted body image.

Having worked with overweight kids and adults for the last 15 years, I'm usually the one telling them that they are "fat", though I do it in a "nice way". But at the same time, we don't sugar coat it either, because it's a serious situation and will only get worse unless we take steps now to reverse it (unlike what many parents like to think, they don't "grow out of it" by elementary age).

I can count on one hand how many kids in the past 15 years I've measured who had a "high" BMI but were not fat--they were truly all muscle and bone. The vast majority of kids that have a high BMI ARE overweight due to too much fat on their body.

More precisely than BMI, for kids, we actually use BMI%-tile and if they are at or above the 85%tile BMI, then they are considered "at risk for overweight" and if they're at the 95%-tile BMI or higher, they are considered "overweight".

Finally, BMI is NOT a diagnostic tool, but a screening tool. If a child is at or above the 85%-tile, then other methods should be used to determine if they truly are heavy due to too much fat or lean mass. That's why we use a body fat machine along with BMI%-tile at the clinic and the XRtainment Zone.

For more on BMI and kids, go the CDC's site on this.

What do you think? Should Nintendo warn parents that this game might call their kids "fat"? If Nintendo changed the terminology to something less blunt, like "pudgy" or "jiggly", would that be better? Should they use the CDC's terminology of "risk of overweight" and "overweight"? Or should they build in sensors to measure body fat and really reveal the truth??? Leave your comments below.

ps. BTW, we did the math for the girl in the article, and depending on if her dad rounded down to "6 stones" (a stone = 14 lbs) and she was actually closer to 7 stones, her BMI%-tile would've been at 84%-tile, which is just under the "at risk for overweight".

In the article, he stated that his daughter "dances and swims", so therefore, can't be fat. Our daughter also dances (4 days a week--ballet, jazz, and hip hop) and swims 90 mins. 5 days a week, and I can tell you that we see girls at both who are "overweight" (too high body fat) doing these activities doesn't mean you can't have too much body fat.

For the record, Summer comes out with a BMI of 15.4, which puts her at the 17th%-tile BMI. ;-) When you pinch near her belly button, you only pinch skin. (I wish I had that!) This is what she looks like on the block:

One last thought--I don't think this will hurt exergaming, for this has been an "issue" for some time now, given the pediatric obesity epidemic. If anything, this will bring this discussion more to the forefront, which is good, because the sooner we get past this, the sooner we can deal with this problem head on. Hurray for exergaming to do this! ;-) (Hey, they don't call me the exergaming evangelist for nothing! LOL!)

Friday, May 16, 2008

We get a Wii Fit!!!

5-16-08: There was this big white box in my office at the clinic for the last few days, and I finally took a closer look at it, and it was addressed to the "Wii Research Headquarters". I opened it quickly and it was a Wii Fit!!! These are due to come out May 19, so we were lucky to get one before then. Thanks to Rob Wheat and Golin Harris for making this possible. ;-)

I took it over to the Zone where, yup, it's him again, Dr. Thin!, helped us set it up since it had come out in Europe a few weeks ago.

Here is Alasdair getting us all set on our Wii Fit:

Getting ready for the downhill ski long jump...

Showing some of our Zone members how to head the soccer ball.
Nice Warrior pose there, Dr. Thin!

BTW, after G4H, Alasdair has been on tour of the US, visiting exergaming hotspots. From Baltimore, he visited Lisa's XRKade lab in Tampa, then went on over to visit Biray in Phoenix, then came to CA to visit us and also Belinda and Sheryl at USC, before heading up to speak at a conf. in Banff, Canada. He'll have a lot to report on when he heads back to Scotland!

Newsflash! Alasdair just posted a review on his blog about his visit! Check it out at!