Stop what you’re doing and reflect back on a time when physical activity was a daily requirement. You went to class, suited up and stood in a line. Were you picked last on the team or first? Did you long for the days in your future when physical activity would be a choice? What could your school have done to encourage you to participate in your PE classes? Would the option of a video game have increased your chances of participation?

The news is buzzing about the state of West Virginia’s drastic move to place the game Dance Dance Revolution in all of its 157 middle schools as a component of its health education program. A 2005 study involving West Virginia University and the non-profit group, Games for Health, showed a correlation between regular use of the game and weight loss in participants. At home and in physical education classes, the game has been a hit with students. The game’s flashing lights and upbeat music draw them in and encourage them to continue playing, or really, exercising.

This is good news to everyone from teachers at schools to parents and public health officials. The idea is that children can use the game to increase physical activity and to build habits of activity that may be sustained into adulthood. Although overweight conditions in children are frequently linked to playing video games, DDR requires the player to use their feet to “dance” on a metal pad linked to the game.

It is certainly surprising, as well as encouraging, to see researchers discover a partial solution to the problem of childhood obesity. However, the other factors influencing obesity cannot be overlooked. Aside from the consumption of junk food, children with overweight parents are at risk for becoming obese, as well as children who sleep less during the day.

West Virginia, like many states, is facing the growing problem of childhood obesity. Between 1999 and 2002, 43 percent of children screened for a heart disease risk study were found to be overweight and 25 percent were obese. These children not only had high blood pressure and cholesterol, but were also at risk for developing diabetes.

In California, the rate of overweight children is still slightly lower than in West Virginia, some reports speculate 28 percent. However, California is quickly catching up to other states.

At Cal Poly, we have many resources for physical activity. You can go to Rec Center for weights, cardio or classes. You can jog on the trails around campus and into Poly Canyon. You can even join up with Poly Escapes and go for a hike or a climb. And while you’re in the UU, you can also stop by McPhee’s and get a short workout on Dance Dance Revolution!

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