Our fitness is pretty funny-looking: Video games for physical education

5 Days of Video-Game Learning series: Video games that promote health and physical fitness

The adults in our family do all of our work – and most of our recreation – via laptop and phone.

My 80-year-old mom keeps up with friends and reading via her iPad.

While we don’t have the latest and greatest video-game systems, technology and especially gaming are a huge part of our lives. Is it any surprise that they’re a major part of our teenage daughter’s homeschooling experience as well?

We’re not just talking the standard “educational games” here. We firmly believe learning happens all the time, and we’ve had chances to discuss all sorts of concepts in popular games like the Assassin’s Creed series, Minecraft, World of Warcraft, and more. We also believe in the value of apps for learning, in a traditional educational sense and beyond.

That’s why I took part in the iHomeschool Network’s “5 days of…” Hopscotch series with a look at 5 days of video-game learning.

Today, we’ll finish up the series with a look at some of the video games that literally keep us on our toes.

Video games for physical education and exercise

With the exception of my tae kwon do practice and some really pitiful family games of tennis, we’re NOT a particular athletic or graceful bunch.

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The way we meet our physical education “requirements” for our homeschooling documentation is simply to incorporate as much movement as possible into our everyday lives.

We do a LOT of walking and hiking, especially when it’s not winter. Ashar bikes and rides her scooter a lot. We play badminton all summer. Ashar loves hula-hooping. We do some incredibly physical projects in our garden. (Landscaping is HARD work!)

And, as we do with almost everything, we use video games and apps, not as a replacement for other activities but as a fun supplement when we need to stay in the house (or a helpful tool when we leave it).

  • Country Dance – This Wii game is our newest “workout” addition. This sucker is HARD WORK! We are all sweating within one song. Don’t underestimate how much fun, and how much exercise, come with these or any of the Just Dance series games. One caveat: We’re fairly particular about our lyrical selections. There’s maybe one or two songs on Country Dance that I don’t prefer for that reason, but they’re still way better than some of the Just Dance. If I had to recommend one of those, it’d either be the Disney Party or either the first or second Just Dance Kids games. They’re not just “little kid” songs either; they’re family-friendly, and not annoying to adults! One other caveat: You will look ridiculous doing these. Don’t let anyone videotape you. Ever. (These are available on Wii, and most are also available on Xbox 360. A few are for Playstation 3 also.)
  • Wii Sports – This comes bundled with most Wii systems. I’m not sure if there are matching ones for other systems, but it’s a simple way to play baseball, golf, tennis, bowling or boxing. The skill drills in here are phenomenal – I used to bowl competitively, and the bowling drills are as realistic as I could ask for! Chris, Ashar and I will often spend an hour playing these together in the evenings, and sometimes my mom will even bowl with us! It’s a good way to teach the rules of these sports (for instance, how foul balls work in baseball) even if your child isn’t geared toward team-sport participation.
  • Wii Fit Plus – Ashar and I can easily each “exercise” for an hour on this and not realize we’re doing anything but playing games. In addition to regular fitness drills, there are a LOT of these that deal with balance and coordination. I mentioned before that with Ashar’s Asperger’s and sensory-processing disorder, her proprioceptive sense, or her sense of her body in place, is sometimes “off.” There are a TON of great things here that match a lot of mainstream occupational therapy concepts, without the cost. And I can do yoga and step aerobics – which is great!
  • Pedometer on 3DS – Ashar figured this one out, not me! Her Nintendo 3DS, which she saved up for and bought with her own money, comes with an integrated (and surprisingly accurate) pedometer. She routinely takes it with her and tracks her steps! In some games, walking even gets you extra game coins or bonuses – which of course is all the more incentive to do it!
  • Runkeeper app – I guess this is my version of the pedometer. We have the Runkeeper app on my phone, and when we go on hikes or walks, we keep track of our distance and time. It even maps your route down to a scarily accurate level! While it’s technically not a “video game,” it’s definitely a way I’ve used technology to up our family’s fitness level, so I wanted to include it!

There are plenty of even more “dedicated” exercise video games, of course, and games for platforms other than the ones we’re most familiar with. The Jillian Michaels Boot Camp ones (which I tried, and basically stunk at!) are hardcore workouts made more fun by being able to track your progress on-screen. There are plenty of others in that vein.

Exercise is probably the easiest “subject” for me to justify in video games – because it’s so quantifiable. We’re sweating, and we’re burning calories, so we know know it’s working!

That doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy fresh air when we can. But I’d say that video games are our main equivalent for “indoor gym” or “indoor recess” at my daughter’s former public school!

The rest of the series

Sunday: Why “All my kids want to do is play video games!” isn’t such a bad thing (introduction)
Monday: Virtual friends, virtual art: Video games for social skills and creativity
Tuesday: Digital currency: Video games for math
Wednesday: Pixels and punctuation: Video games for writing and spelling
Thursday: Bringing the past to life: Video games for history and geography
Today: Our fitness is pretty funny-looking: Video games for physical education

You can read all the posts here!

More five-day fun

This post is part of the iHomeschool network’s January 2013 “5 days of…” Hopscotch series.

You can see how some of my fellow bloggers are spending their five days here.

We’re sharing everything from tips and tricks for getting out of debt to using posterboard in your homeschool, from catapults to eating whole foods.

We sure are an eclectic group – I hope you’ll check out more!

And if you’re into the things we do in our family homeschool, check out my previous “5 days of…” series, 5 days of real-world math.

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9 thoughts on “Our fitness is pretty funny-looking: Video games for physical education

  1. Joan, I want to tell you how much I’ve liked this series 🙂 Also, I need to share with you that because of your post earlier this week, I downloaded the free version of Minecraft for the girls’ iPod Touches, and within a few days they asked to buy the full version…it’s a huge hit! Thank you 🙂

    • Oh, thank you so much – and YEAH for Minecraft!! Sarah loves her phone version so much (I assume the same as the iPod Touch version) – and paying for it, our first paid app purchase for her, was WELL worth it! I am so glad they’re liking it too.

    • Yes, the iPod Touch version is the same as the phone version. This is the most we’ve ever paid for an app before…I’ve paid for a couple .99 ones before. The girls actually paid for it themselves 🙂

  2. Hey Joan,

    What fabulous posts you have. Video games are so controversial these days. Long story, but Wizard 101 actually helped my son to read quickly and effectively. He loves reading.

    Whatever works.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Lisa! We have definitely seen Sarah’s reading and writing improve drastically through her gaming, so I’m not surprised that your son did well too!

  3. Joan, I’m bookmarking your blog. You’ve got a lot of interesting posts and resources. Since your daughter is starting high school soon, she may want to share some of the cool ways she’s learning through gaming at the LetsHomeschoolHighSchool.com forum for teens. I’m sure the kids there would love to hear from her on this!

  4. I appreciate your emphasis on using games made just to be interesting as learning tools– frankly, I find intentionally educational content disguised as games, fun books, or whatever deathly boring. The game designers must have spent so much time making sure those games were educational they forgot to make them enjoyable in any way!

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