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Students: Use Video Games to Stay in Shape

Are you a video game nut? It's hard not to be with so many great games out on the market today. But how do you avoid becoming the stereotypical blob in front of a TV? You might be surprised to know that you can actually use video games to keep you fit.

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By Laura Allan

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Video games are a welcome reprieve from the stress of college life. You can escape to a different world for just a little while and forget your worries. The problem is that while you forget those worries you're often neglecting your health. It can be so easy to eat junk food and be stationary for hours on end. Time you could spend getting into better shape slips away in exchange for level-ups and boss fights. It doesn't have to be that way, though. Video games can actually be a key to getting you more fit. It can be even easier than going to a gym.

Get a Motion-Based System

Gaming has progressed over the years. It used to involve sitting on the couch and moving our thumbs only. But new technology means that game controls have undergone a metamorphosis. Now there are controllers that require physical motion to move characters, like those used for the Wii. There are also systems where your whole body is the controller, like the Xbox Kinect. If you're constantly required to move in order to play, you'll be exercising during your gaming time. The systems may be expensive, but if you look at them as exercise equipment they're actually fairly well priced (compare a Wii to an exercise bike and you'll find it's actually a pretty good deal). There are even exercise programs made for these systems that will get you in shape, like WiiFit.

Make Snacks Available Beforehand

Something gamers do while they play is snack. It becomes almost subconscious to just reach out and grab whatever food's on the table. While the usual choice is chips or soda, you can change that around. A great way to get in shape is to balance your diet better. Put bite-sized fruit like cherries or raisins on the table before you even begin to play. Carrot sticks or celery are also great ideas. If you don't usually eat your veggies, then this is a perfect opportunity to get them into your diet. You can use your gaming habit of snacking while you play to convince yourself to eat better and lose that freshman 15.

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Use Triggers

If you don't have a new system and can't afford one, you can still use older systems to keep you fit. Even computer games work. All you have to do is set up a system of trigger events that remind you to exercise. Every time you beat a boss you have to do ten pushups. Every time you find a rare item you have to jog in place for 30 seconds. If a certain character appears or you level up you do 20 sit-ups. Get the idea? Basically your video games will be your personal trainer and tell you when to work out. You'll be looking forward to these in-game events, so it gives your exercising a little bit of positive reinforcement too.

Play a Dancing Game

The new systems aren't the only ones that force you to move. Back in the late 90's, there was a game released called Dance Dance Revolution. It featured fun music and a pad with arrows that you'd have to hit with your feet in rhythm. There were several variations and knockoffs of this game, and there are still different versions on today's more high-tech systems. These games are fun, incredibly exhausting and force you to move up in difficulty as you unlock new songs. The systems they're on are much less expensive than new ones ,and the equipment you need is easy to find used online. If you feel like getting out of the house, many arcades still have versions of this game as well.

Distract Yourself

Maybe you prefer handheld gaming to bulky consoles. If that's the case, it really opens up some options for you. Exercising on a treadmill or bike can drag on forever and get pretty boring. Games, on the other hand, are a wonderful distraction; time flies by while you play them. So why not combine them with your exercise? Go to the gym and bring your handheld gaming device. Get onto a machine that lets you have your hands free and set a timer for as long as you want to work out for. If you can game while you do it, you'll find that it comes easier to you, that you remain more relaxed and that it seems to end sooner than you expected.

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