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Valley school turns to video games to fight obesity

posted Feb 6, 2013, 2:43 PM by Julio Zaldivar   [ updated Feb 6, 2013, 2:43 PM ]
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It's no secret California schools have a major childhood obesity problem. These days, students are weighing more, moving less and for the first time doctors are diagnosing kids with adult diseases like type two diabetes at an alarming rate.

One Valley school district is working to change that by tailoring it's physical education program to students who would rather play video games than run around a track.

Fresno Unified is stepping in a new direction and it's getting some help from a nontraditional athlete.

"Your school dances are going to be incredible," yelled professional skateboarder and reality television star Rob Dyrdek, in a gym full of children.

The MTV celeb made a stop at Tehipite Middle School in Central Fresno, Tuesday morning, to jump start a new program he hopes will inspire kids to live healthier lifestyles.

"I think it's a really big deal," said Dyrdek. "I think you can scream from the mountain tops that we need to get kids more active, but Konami and the California Endowment got creative about it. They did something that makes a lot of sense and that kids can have fun doing. I would almost say it's like being fooled into being physically active."

It's called 'Dance Dance Revolution' or DDR, an interactive video game developed by the Japanese company Konami. It combines real physical dancing with energetic music and visuals to get kids moving.

"Young people are at home playing the Wii or XBOX," said California Endowment regional manager, Sarah Reyes. "Unfortunately most of the time they're exercising their thumbs, not their body and so this effort is really about getting them to understand you've got to move your entire body and you've got to be active."

The major difference between the regular edition of the game and the classroom edition is the wireless controller pad which allows up to 48 people to play at the same time.

"You're moving your feet around a lot, your arms, your body and your smiling and happy and you burn a lot of calories from this," said 7th grader Tang Thao.

Thanks to a $250,000 grant from the California Endowment, a private health foundation that provides grants to community-based organizations throughout California, eight middle schools will now integrate the game into their P.E. programs. Each student will have their own smart card containing their height, weight and body mass index and will use it to track their progress towards reaching their fitness goals.

There's an intimidation factor with a dodge ball and traditional team sports," said Dyrdek."By doing something that's a little more fun and something that's for yourself, standing on your isolated pad, competing against yourself, basically makes this very different than traditional gym sports."

A workout that breaks from the norm, using technology to get kids moving and grooving in the digital age.

"It's kind of fun," said 7th grader David Kahsysavang. I like how the steps go and how all the songs come on."

Click here to watch video

Blog by Sarah Reyes, Sr. Program Officer for The California Endowment - Central Valley