Here?s a great story to kick off a Monday morning ? a videogame is being used productively by the US education system, in order to improve pupils' general levels of fitness and help them maintain a healthy diet.
Every one of West Virginia?s 765 public schools is set to incorporate Konami?s popular Dance Dance Revolution into their curriculum in an attempt to combat the state?s growing problem of childhood obesity, according to a report in the Financial Times this morning.
The plan is to roll out the pioneering scheme across 103 of West Virginia?s junior and middle schools over the next couple of months, and then move it into all the high schools and elementary schools.
West Virginia has a sizeable (sorry, couldn't resist) problem with obesity, with over 62% of the state?s population officially obese and 28% of children from low-income families overweight, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
SPOnG is a big fan of Dance Dance Revolution and thinks this is a superb idea for making gym classes more appealing to overweight and unhealthy kids ? exactly the kind of kids who skip gym class. And also exactly the kind of kids who are not likely to enjoy competitive sports and far more likely to want to play a videogame.
SPOnG has shameful memories of skipping our own Physical Education classes at school for this very reason ? i.e., playing Gauntlet at the local arcade was far more fun than having some oaf jump on your head on the rugby pitch.
DDR, as you will know, has a workout mode, which allows players to track the number of calories they burn off each session. Perhaps the next step would be to get Jamie Oliver over the pond, to help West Virginia's schools sort out their cafeterias ? SPOnG suggests that banning burgers and introducing a strict Japanese diet of sushi and rice might do the trick.
Nidia Henderson, who is the Wellness Director of the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency, commented on the scheme saying she hoped it would help those who live in "...even the most rugged terrain an opportunity for physical activity".
If you re-read that sentence and replace ?the most rugged terrain? with ?the most run-down trailer park? you will probably get a better idea of what Ms Henderson is trying to say.
SPOnG applauds the idea of using dance mat games in schools as it can only succeed in making regular physical exercise more appealing to exactly those pupils who need it most, yet are most likely to skip it. Let us know what you think in the forums below.