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Interactive Fitness Research Lab for Children Opens at USF

XRKade Research Lab, the first university interactive fitness research lab for children, opened its doors January 8, 2007 at the University of South Florida. The lab’s researchers may shed light on innovative ways of combating childhood obesity.

The XRKade fitness lab, located in the Physical Education Building, is designed to investigate the impact of technology-based interactive game activities on children’s physical activities and fitness levels.

The lab is the result of a unique partnership between the USF School of Physical Education, Wellness, and Sport Studies (USF College of Education) and iTECH Fitness of Denver, Colo. Among the technology driven activities included in the lab are Dance, Dance, Revolution; Cateye game bikes; X-board; 3-Kick; and Cybex Trazer. 

Interactive fitness, known as Exergaming, the use of technology-based interactive activities (including video games) in order to raise physical activity levels in children, is increasingly being used by public school systems, YMCA’s, recreational centers and private fitness clubs across the country to help children of all ages increase physical activity levels and maintain a healthy weight.

Although Exergaming has increased in popularity, little research is available to suggest that interactive fitness is having a positive effect on fitness and activity levels. The XRKade Research lab will enable USF researchers to learn more about how technology-based interactive fitness can help combat childhood obesity and improve the physical activity levels of American youth. 

One of the top reasons often cited for the increase in obesity levels among children is the sedentary behavior associated with excessive use of technology – children often spend hours watching TV, or playing computer or video games. 

"These are fun activities for kids and have become part of our American culture," said Stephen Sanders, director of the USF School of Physical Education, Wellness and Sport Studies. "Video games are not going away.

But the Exergaming movement suggests that children can become more physically active and reduce obesity levels and still play videogames," Sanders said. "Games require that children must be physically active in order for the game to work. For example, the faster a child pedals the game bike the faster the car will go on the video screen. Or, the more a child jumps while wearing the Cybex Trazer belt the more points he/she can score in the video game. The physical activity possibilities are endless."

What are the implications of increased use of Exergaming equipment among children?  Does Exergaming really increase children’s fitness levels?  Are there social and academic benefits of interactive gaming activities? Are there benefits to special needs students? Researchers at the XRKade lab will investigate these questions and more over the coming months and years.

"The XRKade research lab is a great opportunity for our department and the College of Education and we are excited to investigate and learn more about the effects these technology driven activities will have on our children’s fitness," Sanders said.

The XRKade lab was funded through donations from iTECH Fitness and their corporate partners. iTech Fitness is the industry leader in creating interactive fitness exercise environments geared toward making fitness fun for children by utilizing interactive fitness products and services. 

"We are extremely excited to be working with USF on this project and we believe that the research will only help solidify the positive effects we have seen throughout the country in Exergaming fitness clubs," said Michael G. Hansen, COO and Co-Founder of iTECH Fitness. 

The School of Physical Education, Wellness and Sport Studies at USF and iTECH Fitness will host an open house on Jan. 26 for media and other lab partners.  For more information on the open house please contact Sanders at 813-974-4871, sanders@coedu.usf.edu; or iTECH Fitness at 866-480-7781 Ext. 3, Mike@iTECHFitness.com


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