Video Game Helps Players Lose Weight
Forget the image of paunchy video gamers
holed up in a dark room, surrounded by sticky Twinkie wrappers
and empty soda cans Dance Dance Revolution players burn
extra pounds along with their quarters.
Weight loss is an unexpected benefit
of a game designed for dance music.
Natalie Henry, 14, was drawn to
the pulsing techno songs, and didn't realize she had slimmed down
until she went clothes shopping.
"I went to go buy pants and the
14s were too big. The more I played, I gradually had to get smaller
size pants," said Natalie, who now buys size 8 baggy cargoes.
The premise of DDR is simple: Players
stand on a 3-foot square platform with an arrow on each side of
the square_ pointing up, down, left and right. The player faces
a video screen that has arrows scrolling upward to the beat of
a song chosen by the player. As an arrow reaches the top of the
screen, the player steps on the corresponding arrow on the platform.
Sound easy? Throw in combinations
of multiple arrows and speed up the pace, and the game is as challenging
and vigorous as a high-impact aerobics class.
Most beginners look like they're
stomping on ants and are flushed in the face after one or two
"At first I was playing it for
fun, but when you see results you're like, 'Yeah!'" said Matt
Keene, a 19-year-old from Charleston, South Carolina, who used
to weigh more than 350 pounds and wear pants with a 48-inch waist.
Also aided by better eating habits,
the 6-foot-5 Keene explained in a phone interview he had dropped
to about 200 pounds. Now he works out on a weight bench to bulk
up because he thinks he's too skinny.
More than 1 million copies of DDR's
home version have been sold in the United States, said Jason Enos,
product manager at Konami Digital Entertainment-America, which
distributes the Japanese game in the United States. About 6.5
million copies have been sold worldwide.
The home version, which costs about
$40 for a game and $40 for a flat plastic dance pad, includes
a "workout mode" that can track how many calories the user burns
The game was designed to be fun.
But "what the creators knew is that this is a physical game no
matter how you dice it," said Enos, who says he has lost 30 pounds
playing DDR. "At some level there's going to be people who want
to focus on that element of the game for their own physical health
or for exercise."
One pediatrician is so convinced
of the health benefits that he's planning a six-month study of
DDR and weight loss among 12- to 14-year-olds, in an effort to
give the game credibility among physicians.
Dr. Richard Adler, of the University
of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, said he likes the
game because it "gets the kids off their butts and they lose weight."
"Just like the kids are addicted
to regular video games where they use their hands and thumbs,
they just don't want to stop," said Adler, who drives a sport
utility vehicle with a license plate urging people to "xrsighz."
One possible down side, Adler said,
is that DDR might cause discomfort in the joints of players who
are heavy and have arthritis.
DDR has been so effective in getting
teens off the couch that some schools have incorporated it into
their physical education programs.
The chief drawback fans cite is
that DDR can be addictive, and therefore expensive. In the arcade,
it costs from $1 to $1.50 to dance for about six minutes.
Natalie spent $150 the first
four months she played.
"Unless you have the money to do
it, you shouldn't do it. I came here with $3," she said.
As she cooled herself in front
of a fan at a video arcade, two teenage boys danced on a machine
nearby. Their sneakers pounded out a staccato rhythm at a pace
so fast that "Lord of the Dance" Michael Flatley would be envious.
Not everyone sees dramatic results.
Seventeen-year-old Justin Meeks says his body is more toned, but
his weight hasn't changed. He's pleased to point out, though,
that his dancing skills have helped him get girls.
"Two. I'm guilty of that," Justin
said with a grin as he watched friends play DDR.
Others say the game has changed
their lives dramatically.
Four years ago, Tanya Jessen was
an unhappy college freshman in Seattle, eating fast food and spending
most of her time on the computer.
Her weight hovered around 235 pounds,
despite weight-loss efforts.
"I thought I was fine until I hit
about 220 pounds, and I was steadily gaining weight," Jessen said
in a telephone interview.
She knew if she kept on that path,
she'd weigh 300 pounds by age 25.
Then when Konami released DDR USA
two years ago, Jessen got hooked, playing at a Gameworks arcade
before and after class. After a year, the 5-foot-8 college student
had lost 60 pounds. That motivated her to become more health-conscious
cutting back on high-calorie foods and drinking water instead
Jessen, 22, is now a svelte 140
pounds and says self-confidence has made her more outgoing and
particular about her appearance.
"There's something about not having
to shop in the men's section anymore," she said.
On The Net:
DDR and weight loss www.getupmove.com
Konami Digital Entertainment-America
Reference Source 102