videogames

  1. Power your brain with videogames

    Here's a new way to bond with your grandson: Instead of telling him to turn off the videogames and get outside, tell him to move over so you can join him.

    Videogames don't always deserve the bad rap they get, and many of them are more than just mindless fun. They've got plots so rich and elaborate that they rival those of books and movies -- and because you have to move the action forward yourself, they require plenty of brainpower, too.

    That makes them a great way to keep your mind strong, and a new study finds one in particular can help keep yours as sharp as a battle-axe: World of Warcraft.

    Seniors in a new study who spent an hour a day lost in this game's world of warriors, warlocks, and druids showed big-time cognitive improvements over just two weeks when compared to seniors who didn't play the game.

    Even better, the seniors who scored the lowest on tests given at the start of the study actually enjoyed the biggest cognitive leaps -- so if you've felt your own mind slip a bit, you might want to join the online gaming world sooner rather than later.

    One of the reasons WoW is such a brain booster is that it's so involved. It's not just you versus a microchip -- it's a game that places your character into an online world populated by 10 million other human players (even if they don't look quite human on the screen).

    Together, you join these other players in a series of quests and battles that help develop your character -- and these tasks often require knowing a lot more than which button will let you swing your sword or wave your wand.

    They require serious thought, being engaged with the environment and interacting with others -- basic skills that have shown time and again to be brain boosters no matter how you get them.

    If Warcraft doesn't sound like the world for you, then feel free to pick another game -- because at least 20 other studies have found that videogames in general have terrific benefits for the brain.

    You can read more about those brain-boosting video game studies on the website of Healthier Talk.

    Now you'll have to excuse me. I'm being chased by some trolls, and they don't look happy.

  2. Wii Fit won’t make you fit

    Videogames are often blamed for everything wrong with kids today -- but in most cases, they get a bum rap.

    Believe it or not, videogames can be an enriching, engaging, and even productive way to pass the time -- and as I’ll tell you later in the week, some games might even slash the dementia risk in seniors.

    But there’s one thing videogames can’t do. They can’t help you lose weight, and that includes games that require movement, like Nintendo’s Wii Fit.

    In a new study, 84 overweight kids were randomly assigned to either a Nintendo Wii with Wii Fit games that require active play -- like sports and dancing -- or a Nintendo Wii with a more traditional game that can be played in the usual couch potato position.

    The kids also wore accelerometers to measure total daily activity, which 13 weeks later revealed virtually no difference at all between the two groups, according to the study in Pediatrics.

    The kids who played Wii Fit got between 25 and 28 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, while the kids who played less active games got between 26 and 29 minutes a day -- both a far cry from the hour or so kids should spend engaged in active play each day.

    The researchers say they’re not sure if the movements of Wii Fit were so minimal that the accelerometers didn’t pick them up, or if the kids balanced out their Wii Fit sessions by spending less time engaged in other forms of physical activity.

    Either way, the results speak for themselves: No one’s getting fit off Wii Fit.

    Surprised? Don’t be -- one of the company’s own studies found that many Wii Fit games don’t even reach the levels of exercise achieved by ordinary walking.

    Another study found that 10 minutes of Wii Fit burned just 25 calories -- less than cleaning or vacuuming, and a fraction of what you can burn in 10 minutes of running on a treadmill.

    That’s not to say you need to slave away in a gym -- or even on a treadmill -- to lose weight and stay fit.

    You don’t.

    But you do need to get out and get moving, whether it’s a brisk walk through the local park, a daily "workout" in your garden or a regular tennis habit.

    And by that, I mean "real" tennis... not the one in Wii Sports.

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