Myths of exergaming

The goal is a more active and motivating school!

LitT Arto Pesola and teacher Jukka Sinnemäki discuss exergaming.

True or false: But kids move enough naturally!

According to several Finnish studies, the health of Finnish kids and teens health has decreased year after year. Schools, sports clubs, and associations work in a variety of ways to achieve an active lifestyle. Still, polarization can be seen in everyday life: there are kids and teens who exercise well beyond the recommendations and those who are not interested in exercise at all.

Finnish kids still sit a lot. In addition, with age, the amount of sitting increases when you move from childhood to adolescence. WHO published physical activity recommendations in December 2020. Pupils should move briskly for an hour. It not longer comes by accident, but you have to put in the effort. Many kids and teens are driven to school and to hobbies, yard games, and independent movement during free time have decreased, in distance learning everyday exercise is easily forgotten and many take care of their social relationships through social media.

We have available research information and know-how; however, more methods are needed to move an active lifestyle toward practical implementation. An hour of brisk exercise a day requires systematic activity and this hour is planned as part of the structure of the school day.




True or false: Exergaming isn't a real exercise

The Jyväskylä Christian School has an iWall, which is used by all students and staff. In a Finnish conducted study, the workload of exergames (iWall) was measured when kids and teens were allowed to play freely. It corresponded to medium-intensity exercise, i.e. it is taxing and builds fitness. There are many methods for getting students to exercise, but exergames are a particularly good tool for organizing versatile exercise. With the same equipment, muscle condition, respiratory and circulatory systems, body control, and balance are developed.

Pedagogically and in terms of arrangements, it can be difficult to organize medium-intensity exercise every day at school for every student for 60 minutes, but one-minute high-intensity bursts can be implemented with the help of exergames every day.  Now there is no longer a minimum time set for the health effects of exercise. According to the previous instruction, only 10 minutes of continuous performance was considered developmental. So a little is much better than nothing! WHO now recommends high-intensity and fast-paced exercise for kids as well. Even a minute or two is enough signal to raise the fitness.

Often, exercise and playing are seen as opposites and even counterforces to each other. Exergaming is a new way to exercise. The WHO also points out that not all screen time is harmful. However, the main benefit of exergaming is that it is fun. All other benefits follow.



True or false: Exergames only motivate active boys

Many Finnish school institutions, from primary school to university, have ended up acquiring digital exergaming products for their school.

According to research, when girls reach adolescence, their physical activity decreases more than boys. According to a Finnish study, when playing on iWall, for example, girls move with a faster heart rate.

There are no differences between girls' and boys' enthusiasm for exergaming. At the same time, everyone plays with equal enthusiasm and, best of all, together. It has been noticed that in addition to active kids, quiet and withdrawn kids also benefit from exergaming. In the traditional sense, active and non-active kids exergame together.

An active lifestyle is not born by command. At the school, it has been noticed that the student themselves are surprised that suddenly exercising with the help of exergames is actually meaningful. Even students who haven't been out of breath for a long time are happy to run and lie down on the floor out of breath.




True or false: Circus equipment is not part of the school and is very expensive

Exergames are expensive because they are usually, placed in public places and must be safe, easy to use, and difficult to damage. In addition to this, they must be physically and pedagogically developing and above all motivating and renewable in content, so that expensive acquisitions aren't left gathering dust in the corner.

In Jyväskylä, exergames have only resulted in positive problems. Because everyone wanted to play, a calendar was set up on the school's pedanet, from which class, subject, and special education teachers can book an exergaming space for lessons and evenings and weekends. You can also come and exercise with your family.

Every kid and teen need positive experiences and encouraging feedback every day, and exergames produce these. Teachers have noticed that exergaming has a significant connection to learning, coping in school, managing everyday life, and even improving self-esteem. Exergames have had a direct impact on the atmosphere, class spirit, and sense of belonging. When the lesson starts, you will notice the difference if the students come from the play area. Exergames put students on the same page and even those who fail in traditional spots can succeed in them.

It's also important to have a quick rotation in playing. No one plays for ten full minutes, but the duration of the games is from a few seconds to a minute. This way, even during the break, many people get their daily dose of exercise. A few students at a time are involved in the game and it is just as important to be watching and cheering. Everyone gets to be a star in turn.

The researchers are happy about the double benefits of exergames: Exercise alone is beneficial for learning, but what the brain especially likes is when it it practiced at the same time as exercise. And that's exactly what exergaming is.

See more students' and teachers' thoughts about exergaming in school.



Helsingin Sanomat, 9.12.2020. Koululaisten kestävyyskunto heikkenee.

Liikanen, V. & Pesola, A, 2018. Physical fun : Exercise, social relations and learning in SuperPark.

Opetushallitus, 2020. Move!-mittaukset 2020 : lasten ja nuorten kestävyyskunto heikentyy, muu fyysinen toimintakyky ennallaan.


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