It’s pretty much a truism that video games are badfor children’s health. They hold their minds hostage,promote sedentary behavior and can even desensitizethem to violence.
But there’s one video game that has been good for thehealth of one Utah teenager.
That teen is my son, Michael Twede.
Michael was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes fouryears ago at the age of 13. After the usual getting-to-know-you period of trying to get blood glucose andinsulin regimens in line, he finally settled into a routine offairly good control.
Michael would count all of his carbohydrates and inject anappropriate amount of insulin to help metabolize them.
Keeping control of blood glucose in arapidly growing boy can be a challenge,however. There are many factors that canaffect the blood glucose levels of youngdiabetics. Carbohydrates are an obviousfactor in raising blood glucose, and exerciseis a major contributor to lowered bloodglucose levels.
Getting enough exercise is good advice for all ofus, but it can be even more vital to people tryingto keep blood glucose in control.
You would expect that a teenager like Michaelwould be in a constant state of physical activity, butthings have changed for teens over the past few years.
Teens aren’t as active as they were even a decade ago.Ask any parent today, and he or she will tell you how theirteens lounge around watching the television or playingvideo games. Video games and surfing the Web take uptime that was traditionally spent outside riding bicycles andplaying.
But at our house, things have recently changed forthe better.
Sound, Lights, Action!
Dance Dance Revolution, or “DDR,” as it has been nicknamed,is a craze that started in Japanese video arcades several yearsago and was introduced to the United States a couple of yearslater.
The game uses a large video-game station with a dancingplatform, large speakers and flashing neon lights. The playerselects a song by tempo and complexity, then dances to themusic, doing the moves choreographed by the scrolling arrowson the video screen. At video arcades, the scene usually drawsa crowd as kids cheer on the dancer and adults stand by baffledby the spectacle.
All of that physical activity does wonders for diabetic teenshooked on the popular game.
Until recently, Michael’s A1C was trending upward to 8.7%.After developing his DDR habit, Michael’s recent A1C was 7.1%,close to his goal of less than 7%, and he aims to get iteven lower.
Dance Dance Revolution Comes Home
Until recently, teens had to get their DDR fix by going to thevideo arcade. Playing DDR at the arcade can be a frustratingexperience, however, because the popularity of the game makesit hard to get enough playing time.
“There’s always a line,” says Michael. “You end up waiting most of the time.”
But those days of waiting are over—at least for Michael.
A Utah-based company called Cobalt Flux recently donated ahome dance pad, which they manufacture, to Michael.
“We’re really excited that our product has had that effect,” says co-founder Brian Foley. “We knew that DDR could be complementary to school physical education programs, but this is a total surprise.”
Michael now dances for up to four hours at a time at home,with his new DDR dance pad hooked up to his Playstation 2video-game system.
Cobalt Flux began making DDR dance pads in 2002, whenfounders Matt Andersen and Brian Foley were facing the samefrustrations that Michael experienced at the arcades. The two20-year-olds have three partners and three employees andship their product worldwide via Internet sales. Because of thebeneficial fitness aspects of DDR, their product will soon beavailable through major physical fitness catalogs.
The basement family room of our suburban home is becomingsomewhat of a video arcade itself. These days, Michael’s friendsare constantly coming over to get their DDR fill.