More and more children in the Netherlands are overweight. TNO research among 80,000 children shows that an average of 14 percent of boys and 17 percent of girls are too fat. At some ages, the percentage of children who are overweight has (tripled) from previous measurements in 1997. The fact that children are getting heavier is mainly due to an imbalance between food intake and physical activity, according to researchers. Children move less than they used to. This is especially true for urban children, who have few opportunities to play outdoors. The rise of computer games (gaming) is also causing children to be less physically active. One problem with sports-focused interventions, however, is that inactive children (the category that spends a lot of time on games, computers and television) by definition have less interest in participating in sports activities.
Solution direction and research questions
The solution direction within the RAAK-PRO research proposal PLAYFIT is to use computed gaming as a tool to encourage movement. In doing so, the consortium focuses on school-age youth, particularly vmbo and mbo, and links to existing programs to promote active lifestyles, see www.gezonderwijs.nl.
Structural passivity is a major social problem of our time. And although gaming is often seen as a major cause, Fontys University of Applied Sciences has used gaming precisely to solve this problem. After all, why should gaming be seated? The PlayFit project explored how the popularity of gaming could be used to activate young people. For example, with interactive, wobbly benches in the schoolyard, an expressive wall projection, a trampoline game where the player moves an avatar through the game landscape while jumping and running, and a mobile lesson. All four allow young people to move in different places and different times, integrate with the educational process and trigger curiosity and personal creativity making them easily incorporated into any school culture.
Story of PlayFit
The project shows that play, gaming, can become part of an educational process. In addition, new partnerships of exercise, education, and gaming professionals have emerged. And although the project has concluded, there is still much interest from education and the media.
The executive program team, led by the coordinator, Fontys Hogescholen (Serious Game Design Lectorate and Physical Activity & Health Lectorate) consisted of: Eindhoven University of Technology, Faculty of Industrial Design, Embedded Fitness, ROC (It-Workz), Netherlands Institute for Sport and Exercise and Ranj Serious Games. In total, the program brings together in the umbrella consortium four educational and research institutions, three public organizations from the professional field and three companies.