Games, Fitness and Obesity

Toronto, ON (June 4, 2014) – Physical exercise is a significant contributor to good health. Good health eases the path to an enjoyable life, which for many involves the physical and social pursuits that fall into the category of “games.” One growing class of games – digital games – reduces the opportunity and incentive for physical games. A decrease in physical games reduces the accompanying exercise, further reducing the appeal of physical play in a vicious cycle.

Although there is a certain stigma associated with obesity – the idea that overweight individuals cannot control their eating habits or maintain exercise – there is a growing sentiment that weight is not so readily managed by an individual and that other factors come into play. And with obesity being a factor in some travel, health and life insurance, the financial impact can be direct.

Last summer, obesity was officially recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association.(1) Obesity contributes to numerous health issues, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. With obesity classified as a disease, it is anticipated that insurance companies and doctors will put a greater emphasis on the condition, and thereby lessen the effects. More funding could be made available to fight it as well.

The 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey, the most comprehensive direct health survey ever conducted on a nationally representative sample of Canadians, considered indicators of body composition, aerobic fitness, musculoskeletal fitness and more. The study showed that fitness levels change substantially between ages 6 and 19 years, and that those of age 16 to 19 are better than those of age 20 to 39. Most importantly, fitness levels of children and youth have declined significantly and meaningfully since 1981, regardless of age or sex.(2)

Childhood obesity and inactivity have been a child health concern in Canada in recent years. Statistics indicate that childhood obesity is rising and that inactivity levels are high. This is not a good sign: evidence clearly demonstrates the health consequences of childhood obesity and the benefits of physical activity to childhood health and wellness. Lower levels of fitness may result in accelerated chronic disease development, higher health care costs, and loss of future productivity.

A conundrum, then, arises for overworked parents and their equally busy children. When looking at sports participation, the majority of parents agree that kids today would rather play sports video games than real sports. Kids themselves also express a preference for digital experiences, with three times as many choosing to play their favorite video games over their favorite sports. In addition, more than twice as many kids favored playing video games over playing with their favorite toys.(3)

Maybe there is something to be said after all for suggesting that kids go play in the park or even in the street! Healthy people, a better life, and lower insurance costs.

By Doug Grant, CIP


1. Medical News Today, Obesity Is Now A Disease, 19 June 2013

2. Fitness of Canadian children and youth: Results from the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey

3. LMX Family, Ipsos MediaCT’s study of the media and technology attitudes and behaviors of kids aged 0-12 years old and their parents.