Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Targeting Sedentarianism with exergaming!

1-11-12: Happy New Year! I hope that you have a great holiday break. I'm sure many received some sort of exergame (such as a Wii or Kinect), and are using it to stay active in the new year.

As I look back on the last few years in the field of exergaming, a lot of the attention has been focused on using exergames as a way to increase physical activity (PA) and to be used as a new intervention for an exercise prescription (Exercise Rx).

However, in just the last year, I've noticed a new focus coming up...that of decreasing sedentary behavior. At first glance, this may seem like 2 sides of the same coin or mere semantics, but in fact, evidence is coming out that shows sedentary behavior is an independent risk factor compared to not doing the your exercise Rx.

In other words, someone who is doing their regular exercise Rx of 30 mins, 5x/wk, but then then is totally sedentary the other 23+ hours of the day (sleep, sitting at work, driving, etc.), is almost at the same risk as not doing your Exer. Rx at all!!! In other words, doing your workout does NOT protect you from being a couch potato the other 23 hours of the day!!!

A study that just came out highlights this in youth. Published by the American College of Sports Medicine, you can read more about it here.

What I like about this new focus is that now, instead of seeing which exergames meet the moderate to vigorous levels of intensity to qualify as "exercise", we are just focused on kids (and adults) being less sedentary!!! They talk about the benefits of JUST STANDING while talking on the phone, for example. With this level of physical activity, EVERY SINGLE exergame would qualify as an tool to decrease sedentary behavior!!!

Imagine schools, workplaces, homes, taking "sedentary vaccinations" by playing a game or two of some popular exergame every hour. It would be a nice mental break as well as a physical activity against sedentarianism.

I think we should encourage more research into the viability and effectiveness of exergames to break sedentary behavior. Then maybe, exergames will be more fully accepted by all those in the sports medicine and healthcare fields and promoted as a tool for their patients/client.

What do you think? Feel free to comment here or e-mail me at or post a message on my Facebook wall (Exergaming Interventionist).

Thursday, January 5, 2012

New games 4 health journal debuts Feb!

This was copied from an e-mail update from the publishers of this new journal...enjoy! And if you're in this space, you definitely should subscribe to this journal. (Disclosure: I'm a member of the editorial board of this journal, but even if I wasn't, I would still encourage everyone to subscribe and support this new journal, our only journal dedicated to games for health!)

Mary Ann Liebert, Publishers

Editor InsightsEditor Insights

The team behind Games for Health Journal wishes you a happy 2012 - a very promising year for health games research, development, and clinical applications and the launch of our print and online journal—powerful new resources to share and shape developments in this burgeoning field.
And we came a long way in 2011. One of the developments of the year that caught my eye was Pamela Kato's work in validating the effectiveness of health games. While this is clearly early work, my sense is that as games become more popular vehicles for academic and clinical researchers to explore the theoretical potential for improving health, everyone from prescribing health care professionals to insurers to the families of the prospective end-users will seek assurance of the effectiveness and duration of game-influenced changes. Dr. Kato's clinical brief, Confirming Efficacy: Validating the Results of Health Games is featured in our upcoming inaugural issue of the Journal.

With that, I'd like to take a moment to remind you all to subscribe now using the link below to ensure you will receive the inaugural issue of Games for Health Journal when it debuts in February. We have a very strong first issue with a powerful roundtable, interview, and profiles of health game innovators, as well as seven very interesting original articles, three informative clinical briefs, and additional content that will be of interest and use to all of us engaged in the many aspects of health games.

I welcome your feedback regarding this e-newsletter. The Games for Health Industry Insider was originally launched to develop relationships with journal subscribers, authors, reviewers and the many other health game stakeholders. I hope the e-newsletter is achieving these goals. Please email me at to share your suggestions, comments, kudos, and criticisms of the Games for Health Industry Insider.

Thank you. Have a healthy, happy, prosperous new year.

Bill Ferguson, PhD

Bill Ferguson, PhD
Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publisher's Games for Health Industry Insider
Games for Health Journal: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications

January 05, 2012

New Health Game Platform Connects Consumers and Insurers
Washington, D.C.-based Audax Health, Inc. will soon offer a gaming platform designed to enable large insurers to offer incentives such as reduced premiums to their members with the goal of healthier member habits. Audax Chief Executive Officer Grant Verstandig recently said the innovative start-up has raised $16.5 million in angel funding and a Series A round from a very impressive roster of investors that includes former Apple Inc. Chief Executive John Sculley, former Aetna Inc. Chief Executive Jack Roe, current TIAA-CREF Chief Executive Roger Ferguson and New Leaf Venture Partners. Additionally, the company has put together a seasoned executive team with Chief Technology Officer Thor Ernsston, who came to the company from Zynga Inc., where he helped run Farmville, and other key executives from WebMD Inc. and the social network Ning Inc. Audax’ Careverge platform is intended to attract consumers for all information and all socializing related to their health, Verstandig said. Consumers will be able to access the site for free and Audax will garner much of its revenue from the large health-insurance providers who will also want to use the site, he said. The providers will be able to offer incentives-including lowered premiums-to members of their insurance plans in exchange for the members adopting healthier habits, something that can save insurers money in the long run, according to Verstandig.

Videogames Engage Patient Interest, Provide Needed Exercise
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine has found that many physical therapists are currently integrating the use of videogame consoles, such as the Kinect for Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii into their care protocols because the videogames engage the attention and interest of the patient while giving him or her the physical movement and exercise they need. The Hopkins team of experts concluded, “Although professionals in the medical field need to conduct further research to determine the physical therapy benefits and how the games help meet these goals, many physical therapists are carefully considering the integration of motion gaming as a patient treatment into their curriculum.” More information here

New Online Videogame Redirects Frustration
The new video game Free Mmorpg has been created to help people deal with stress and to avoid resultant self-destructive behaviors by increasing self-esteem. According to the Urban Alliance Foundation, many people who are fond of playing online videogames are introverted. Frequently when this population is under a great deal of stress, they seek something that will either bring them joy or help them to forget that the problem exists. According to the Foundation, this often shy population frequently seeks solace from smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages, or addictive drugs to escape their stress. A better approach, they report, is to communicate with real people in the virtual world via online games. Success in the virtual game environment often translates to higher self-esteem and reduced stress. More information here

Personal Growth Apps Score with Young Adults
Mindbloom® sees a trend of young adults embracing online and mobile apps for personal growth over self-help books and life coaches. Discovering that nearly 65 percent of its users are young adults, Mindbloom found that young adults were four times more likely than baby boomers to use its Life Game mobile and Web app, which are designed to inspire people to define what's important, discover what motivates them, and take meaningful daily actions in all areas of their life. Throughout 2011, 80 percent of users focused on their health as their number one life priority by committing to simple actions like drinking more water, getting more sleep, and walking topping the list. Relationship-focused commitments like calling parents, spending time with close friends or saying 'I love you' followed health-related activities with about 70 percent interest from both genders. More information here

The Travails of Game Developers Subject of Sundance Indie Film
Health game developers may take comfort in knowing their challenges have caught the eye of an independent movie producer. A new film titled “Indie Game: The Movie” chronicles the desperate efforts of Edmund McMullen and his partner, Tommy Refenes to cram four months' worth of work into a two-month span if they want their new game to have any chance of success. Microsoft was offering to feature their game "Super Meat Boy" on the Xbox Live Arcade, the console system's downloadable game marketplace, but it needed to be finished for the October 2010 independent-game promotion. Canadian filmmakers James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot were planning a documentary on indie games and the people who make them--artists who forgo day jobs, the chance to work on the next "blockbuster" game, and even a measure of social interaction to bring their own visions to interactive life--and met Team Meat at the March 2010 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The resulting film is set to premiere Jan. 20 at the Sundance Film Festival, one of 12 selections in the World Documentary category.

Burgeoning Eldercare Attracts Health Games Treatments
Medical authorities in Singapore are deploying the latest technology as their rapidly aging population prepares for a "silver tsunami" as a result of longer life spans. Compounded by lower birth rates, the average age of Singaporeans is rapidly increasing. By 2030 an estimated 20 percent of the population will be 65 years or older, compared to 9.3 percent at present. To better prepare themselves for the demographic explosion, hospitals in the affluent city-state of five million people are using the latest available technology to augment their limited pool of health personnel. Bala Rajaratnam, a lecturer at the School of Health Sciences at Nanyang Polytechnic in Singapore, states that new technologies including videogames “empower clients to take control over their recovery as well as maximize therapy time.” Future physical therapists at Nanyang Polytechnic use video game platforms such as the Nintendo Wii to help patients recover more quickly than they would using conventional methods. Other medical institutions in Singapore such as KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital as well as Changi General Hospital are also using videogames as part of their repertoire of therapy. “The targeted patient population includes people with neurological conditions such as stroke, acquired brain injury, and Parkinson’s Disease,” said Jean Tan, a senior physiotherapist at Changi who goes on to say, “Any patients with balance deficits and decreased arm function will also benefit from these games.”

Mindset Differences Impact Response, Outcomes of Serious Games
Researchers at Michigan State University have found that abstract individual beliefs regarding their flexibility may predict their response and outcome in learning from serious games. According to Y.H. Lee, Carrie Heeter, Brian Magerko, and Ben Medler, “Individuals with growth mindsets believe their abilities can develop with practice and effort, whereas individuals with fixed mindsets believe their abilities are static and cannot improve.” The studies also indicate that growth mindset players performed better than fixed mindset players, their mistakes did not affect their attention to the game, and they are more likely to utilize feedback than fixed mindset players. Growth mindset players were also more likely to actively seek difficult challenges, which are often essential to self-directed learning, according to the researchers. More information here

Adults with Cystic Fibrosis Have Videogame Options
A recent study conducted by researchers at Queensland, Australia’s Allied Health Research Collaborative has found that video game-based exercise provides similar cardiovascular demand as traditional exercise modalities. After studying 19 adults with cystic fibrosis who had been hospitalized for treatment of pulmonary exacerbation, the team concluded that the conventional treadmill or cycle ergometer was no more effective than the video game exercise in heart rate or energy expenditure. However, patients rated the videogames to be “more enjoyable” than the more traditional interventions. A related discussion by Games for Health Journal editorial board member Peter Bingham from the University of Vermont can be found in the inaugural issue of the Journal. More information here

Games are Great Teaching Tool for Physicians

Researchers Laura de Wit-Zuurendonk and Guid Oei from the Department of Obstetrics at Maxima Medical Center in Veldhoven, The Netherlands report videogames are a new resource in medical education. The games have the potential to become an important tool for healthcare professionals for learning a range of techniques including surgical skills, especially for laparoscopy; clinical decision-making; and patient interaction. More information here

The Players

Long-time game developer and European University Cyprus assistant professor Georgios Christou has written a very interesting treatise on how to evaluate the usability of a video game. Intended to be applicable for all types of videogames, the assessment process certainly applies to the developers and prescribers of health games to optimize their interest, engagement, utility, and effects.

ABC News technology reviewer Scott Steinberg is launching a new book series, “The Modern Parent’s Guide,” and a companion video, “Family Tech: Technology for Parents and Kids.” One of Steinberg’s assertions is that surgeons who regularly play videogames are generally more skilled at performing laparoscopic surgery. The book goes on to say: “Besides offering medical students the ability to practice on patients (which is much safer in the digital world), simulations offer health care providers several upsides. Chief among them are the abilities to make better choices, see results more clearly, and apply information immediately.” More information here

Games for health experts Katharina Stephenson from the University of Vienna Faculty of Philosophy and Education (Austria); Helmut Hlavacs, head of the research group Entertainment Computing at the University of Vienna; Fredrik Debong, co-founder of MySugr Apps, a startup in Vienna which develops mobile applications conquering diabetes; and Mario Lehenbauer, psychologist and psychological game developer at the Faculty of Psychology at the Vienna University presented their experiences with health-related games at the recent Association of Gaming with a Purpose conference in Vienna. The next Gaming with a Purpose Conference discusses ‘Games on Education’ and will take place on April 17, 2012. More information here

Jason Bond of is upbeat on investing in health games accessories. According to Bond, Mat Catz Interactive (AMEX:MCZ) which designs, manufactures, markets, sells, and distributes accessories for videogame platforms and personal computers, as well as for iPod and other audio devices, is a good investment for 2012.

Games for Health Journal editorial board member, Kognito CEO Ron Goldman invites all to the next NYC Health Games Meetup which will take place in late January at NYU's Kimball Hall. The time and date will be announced via the link below. The theme of this meeting will be games that are used to support veterans, military personnel, and their families in the areas of health and behavioral health. The meeting will feature two presentations followed by Q&A and networking time. You can RSVP and attendance is free.

The Journal
Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications (G4H)

Games for Health Journal: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications is a new, bimonthly peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the development, use, and applications of game technology for improving physical and mental health and well-being. The Journal breaks new ground as the first to address this emerging, widely-recognized, and increasingly adopted area of healthcare.
Games are rapidly becoming an important tool for improving health behaviors ranging from healthy lifestyle habits and behavior modification to self-management of illness and chronic conditions to motivating and supporting physical activity. Games are also increasingly used to train health care professionals in methods for diagnosis, medical procedures, patient monitoring, as well as for responding to epidemics and natural disasters.

Games for Health Journal is a must for anyone interested in the research and design of health games that integrate well-tested, evidence-based behavioral health strategies to help improve health behaviors and to support the delivery of care. Learn More Subscribe

back to top

Advertise Today
Become a Part of Our World!
Social Media

Follow us on Twitter!Follow us on FacebookEmail Us Follow us on Linkedin!