Trendsetters - Healthcare - April 07
Lisa Witherspoon was an All-American in basketball at Virginia Tech. "I enjoyed a great deal of success as an athlete," she says appreciatively. That success seems to have attuned her to kids who haven't enjoyed the same. She taught P.E. in schools and in 2006 found herself in New York working with a gym using technology-based interactive games for kids.
Exergaming is a hot field, whether it involves Konami's Dance Dance Revolution, Panasonic's Core Trainer or Cateye's GameBikes. In New York, Witherspoon met Stephen Sanders, director of USF's School of Physical Education, Wellness and Sports Studies, who was consulting at the same facility. Both were struck by the potential that games held for improving the health of children in a society where too many kids are overweight, with betterconditioned thumbs than bodies. Both also were struck by the lack of authoritative research on whether the technology games and devices make for fitter kids and improve them academically and socially.
"Traditional exercise is not getting it done with this generation."
-- Lisa Witherspoon
In short order, Witherspoon became a doctoral student at USF to focus on those questions. She contacted Denver- based game-facility design and setup company iTECH Fitness and with Sanders got the company and game manufacturers to provide $50,000 in gaming equipment to establish the XRKade Research Lab. "I think we're definitely going to see it's beneficial," says Witherspoon, 30. "Traditional exercise is not getting it done with this generation."
Sanders, 54, says that in addition to research, the lab provides a place for university students to learn how to use the machines in teaching. A website will be a resource for teachers around Florida. He sees the technology as having particular benefit for the type of kids who aren't active in sports or engaging in unstructured play but, he cautions, "Please don't misunderstand that this exergaming is the cure-all."