What is Exergaming?

Essentially Exergaming blends state of the art video game technologies with ‘beneficial’ physical movement – precise definition.

High quality group Exergames, such as iDANCE2 by Positive Gaming Scandinavia, allow low to extremely vigorous levels of physical interaction, so you can get VERY fit, lose weight, improve your coordination and balance and challenge your cognitive processes (Brain Games) all at the same time!

Large group fitness solutions, such as iDANCE2, allow up to 32 people to simultaneously benefit from the activity. Professional grade Exergames are made from the ground up to be used in Fitness Centres, YMCAs, Schools, Community centres and so on. As a result they are designed to be robust and easily accessible for all ages, abilities and fitness levels.

Professional Exergames are often Instructor led and structured activities run by qualified service providers. In Tasmania our XSITE Fitness Centre in Hobart is a showcase centre for large group Exergaming.

Domestic ‘Off the Shelf’ exergames offered by Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft receive a lot of publicity but are extremely variable in their effectiveness. The Exergame Network has developed a Rating System (TRS) to determine the effectiveness of domestic Exergames.

Conventional gym fitness activities such as running on a treadmill, cycling on a stationary bike, pedalling on a crosstrainer etc rely on ‘distraction’ by using TV monitors, iPod docks for music or magazine racks to wile away the time. Exergaming delivers a seachange in the ‘exercise experience’ by making an activity engaging not distracting! You become so immersed in the activity that Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) is considerably lower than conventional activities PLUS you actually enjoy the activity making the activity more effective, self motivating and more sustainable. Blending highly immersive gaming technologies with fitness just makes sense!

Les Mills White Paper:

For the sceptical or the conventional fitness diehard: Les Mills, the most successful fitness programs company in the world, delivered a white paper in January 2010 called the Future of Fitness. Page 12 of the document gives a clear insight into how they believe fitness activities will evolve:

‘I can imagine the development of upmarket fitness gaming centres where you can work out through playing games with other people – running races together, two people playing on a virtual football team – all without needing to bring any equipment.’

Linden Dale Gander
Interview with The Nielsen Company

Innovative and forward thinking fitness centre managers are beginning to integrate Exergaming solutions into their ‘serious’ gym and aerobic zones. These early adopters will lead the way into the next era of health and fitness. Our current fitness model, which only services 10% of our communities is broken, we need to fix it immediately and with highly engaging solutions such as Exergaming, we stand a good chance of reversing our  increasing levels of sedentary behaviour and our rising national levels of obesity and the crippling illnesses directly attributable to obesity – Diabetes type 2.

Exergaming is supported both in research and innovation funding by large benevolent foundations and independent organisations particularly in the US: The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and the Wilson Centre. Exergaming is seen  as a powerful catalyst for positive change in our health behaviours and a tremendous amount of ongoing research continues in this fast growing genre. Exergaming has just recently received endorsement from the highest levels of the US government in a bid to counteract the distressing levels of childhood obesity in the US.

The Peak Body for Exergaming in Australia

Exergaming Australia is the first company to advocate and pioneer quality commerical grade Exergames and Exergaming solutions in Australia. We are the Peak Body representing Exergaming in Australia and are very active members of key not-for-profit global advocacy bodies such as The Exergame Network (TEN) and Games for Health (US, Australia and Europe). We have been instrumental in a number of key projects to identify the beneficial community value in Exergaming. Our CEO Brett W M Young was a co-presenter at the most successful presentation at the 2011 Games for Health Conference in Boston and Brett is also the creator of the TRS Exergaming Rating system. Please read About Us to understand more about our passion and motivation to advocate Exergaming in Australia and globally.

The Foundation of Exergaming

In essence, the modern incarnation of Exergaming has been guided into existence as a Special Interest Group (SIG) of the Serious Games Initiative. This initiative has done well to bring Exergaming’s benefits to the attention of researchers, clinicians and fitness and health practitioners, but the reality is that Exergaming is a burgeoning health and fitness solution and not well understood by the wider public. In essence, Exergaming is an innovative combination of the following technologies and methods:

  • Entertainment video gaming (Casual and Mainstream Video Games Industries)
  • Educational and instructive video gaming (Serious Games)
  • Health and rehabilitation (Games for Health and Games for Rehabilitation)
  • Conventional fitness (Cardio and Strength Equipment and methods)
  • Contemporary and adapted fitness (Specialised Athletic methods, Modern PE, Kids Gyms and Seniors Fitness)

The Serious Games Initiative is a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars project that applies cutting edge games and game technologies to a range of public and private policy, leadership, and management issues. Part of the overall charter is to help forge productive links between the electronic game industry and projects involving the use of games in education, training, health, and public policy – The Serious Games Initiative is often abbreviated to Serious Games, either version, like Exergaming Australia, is quite descriptive of its intentions.

The Games for Health Project was produced and supported by The Serious Games Initiative and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation to develop a community and best practices platform for the numerous games being built for health care applications. To date the project has brought together researchers, medical professionals, and game developers to share information about the impact games and game technologies can have on health care and policy. The Initiative is working to catalog use of games in health care, to assist current development, collect best practices, share research results, and explore ideas that might improve health care administration and policy.

The goal of Games For Health is to help foster and support a community of researchers, developers, and users of applications that use game, game technologies, and game development talent to create entire new ways of improving the management, quality, and provision of health-care worldwide. As part of that goal Games For Health also plays a greater role in helping to organize and accelerate the adoption of computer games for a variety of challenges facing the world today.

The modern ‘serious’ incarnation of Exergaming owes much of its development to the Games for Health project, as a result of the Serious Games Initiative and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Exergaming was groomed from an early stage to be a perfect fit to target endemic health issues, such as childhood obesity and as a creative and engaging tool for rehabilitation.

Exergaming, as an entity in itself, received ‘serious’ attention at the second annual Games for Health Conference in 2005 in regard to rehabilitation, what was then called ‘Rehabitainment’.

Exergaming’s successful development in this area has created a new genre of Health and Fitness –  Health e-Games / Games for Health

The RWJF allocated over $8million in 2007 to further research into Exergaming’s potential in the Games for Health arena.es or
Games for Health. The formation of open forums such as Games for Rehabilitation and The Exergame Network (TEN) has promoted the genre further globally.

Exergaming itself, pre-dates all the above in being an original platforms occuring by Amiga and Atari over 30 years ago. The evolution of Exergaming since 1982 is a fascinating story of innovation, failure and success. Exergaming went through a resurgence during the late 1990’s with Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) becoming the Exergame of choice in arcades around the world. More recently, in 2006 to be exact, Nintendo released the Wii gaming console and wireless remotes. The extraordinary success, over 68 million units world wide to date,  of this domestic ‘physical gaming’ platform has reignited the pre-existing Exergaming genre. The combination of Nintendo’s success and the work being done by many similarly outstanding but lesser know companies and individuals has created a thriving Exergaming sector which now offers a range of suitably mature products and  wide ranging fitness and health solutions.

In more recent times Microsoft’s XBox 360 Console along with the Kinect camera has also become a major contributor in adapted Rehabilitation Exergaming and a major driver in the virtual dance games that have dominated the marketplace globally over the last few years.

The longest surviving AND thriving format in Exergaming however is Machine Dance. With Konami in 1989 releasing Dance Dance Revolution around the world in arcades and as domestic game with a soft pad for the home. This genre has been taken to new levels with Positive Gaming creating the international standard for ‘Multiplayer’ Machine Dance. Positive Gaming also steered Machine Dance to receive international Sporting status through the IDO and administered many of the World Machine Dance Championships over the last 10 years.

In essence, Exergaming has become a recognized, proven and highly effective solution across many fitness and health sectors. Exergaming Australia, through its partnerships with key manufacturers and distributors, is one of the world leaders in Exergaming consultancy, product options, innovation and support.

In this spectacularly fast evolving industry, we have been there from the beginning. We are not spectators, quite the opposite. We are extremely active in Exergaming advocacy and fully embrace our role as pioneers of this genre in our sector of the world.

For more information:

Managing Director: Brett Young
Phone: +61 (0) 418 146 818
Email: brett@exergamingaustralia.com