Health & Fitness

Technology lends a hand in helping fitness

Walk into your child's physical education class today and there's a good chance you'll see him using GPS units, a Wii, possibly a pedometer or Playstation.

Back in your day, PE classes probably consisted of running laps around a track, playing a pickup game of basketball or working on calisthenics.

Fortunately for your child, physical education has taken quite a turn. Today, many teachers are on a quest to find technology that will engage your child while helping her to understand the value of physical activity in her life.

In other words, playing with a Wii or Playstation doesn't necessarily mean kids — or adults — are sitting around doing nothing. Here's just a sampling of ways video games and other high-tech gadgets can help keep you moving:

* The Wii game "Just Dance" allows up to four people to compete in a dance-off of sorts. Your handheld remote control recognizes when you make the correct dance moves, and you get points for each correct movement.

* "Dance Dance Revolution" is similar to "Just Dance," but instead of using your hands, you use your feet. The game is available on almost all game systems. It uses a floor pad made of plastic or metal. Players stand in the middle of it and move their feet to coordinate with arrows on the TV screen. There are different difficulty levels. It doesn't take long at all to work up a sweat.

* Wii Fit is another great way to have fun and stay active at the same time. It offers activities like aerobic exercises, yoga, balance games, strength training and more.

* A lot of people have GPS units in their cars, but did you know that you can use a handheld GPS to participate in a worldwide scavenger hunt called geocaching? This can be a fun family activity to do after school or on weekends, and it's a great way to get kids outside walking, running, skipping and jumping. Just create an account at, look for caches (the treasures you must find), and place the coordinates into your GPS. There are more than 7,000 caches in the state of Kansas alone.

* A pedometer is another way to get fit at school and at home. These devices keep track of the steps you take and sometimes even the amount of time you are active throughout the day. We use pedometers in PE to help students (and teachers) become aware of how active they are. If they do not have very many steps or their activity time is low, they know they need to work harder. Pedometers can be used at home, too. Just clip one to the band on your pants and head out the door. Start a competition among family members to see who can get the most steps in a day.

As you can see, these activities can be as effective at home as in the classroom. Join in. Your child does not have to be the only one getting fit.