CORE Curriculum

CORE Curriculum

Combining video games and fitness

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Ten-year-old boys have nothing on me when it comes to video games. While making dinner with one hand, I can manipulate the other to hurl angry birds at cackling green pigs.

Slaying zombies is just another part of my daily routine, like brushing my teeth or getting chiropractic care for my over-stressed thumbs.

I’m not alone: One Chevy Chase father recently bought a new game system for his kids and headed to the basement to set it up. At 3 a.m., his wife woke to find his side of the bed empty. He was downstairs, wild-eyed and disheveled, apparently having not blinked since midnight. The family has instituted a video game curfew now—for Dad.

Another Bethesda family invited the grandparents to visit. When Nana and Poppa finally departed, the couple heard shrieks from the kids. Not because beloved Nana and Poppa were leaving—but because Poppa had played the kids’ video games while they were in school, dragging down their scores.

Studies show that kids (and presumably adults) who play too many video games face an increased risk of obesity. But I’ve just discovered a brilliant way to marry an addiction to technology with a desire for fitness: CORE, a $119 exercise device by BodyMedia FIT.  

The concept is simple: You strap on an armband, go about your day, then attach the band to your computer to download information on how active you’ve been.

My competitive juices began flowing the moment the band arrived. A friend recently told me she’d been walking 10,000 steps a day. I vowed to blast past her like a high-speed roadster in the Mario Kart Wii game.

Here’s what actually happened:

9 a.m.: I wrap the elastic band around my upper arm and push the button to start the count. I’ll easily meet my goal of 10,001 steps for the day. My son has a soccer game, and I’m going to do laps around the field instead of standing on the sidelines, calling out wrong names for half the kids on the team as I attempt to cheer them on. Plus, I’ve had a LOT of caffeine to get my heart rate up.

9:05 a.m.: After digging out the instructions I’d tossed without reading, I learn that the band needs to be charged for a few hours before first use. Also, I have to sign up for an online program to be able to download the information it gathers each day.

9:30 a.m.: The band is emitting a green light, which suggests I’m winning, though I’m not sure what. Somehow, though, I’ve clicked through too many links on the CORE website and inadvertently signed up for Jillian Michaels’ weight-loss program instead of the armband program (in my defense, they’re listed side by side). Can’t fix it now—time to race off to soccer. Since my armband isn’t yet fully charged, I pick up a pumpkin spice latte so my arm won’t feel lonely.

Noon: Back home, I go online to quit Jillian’s weight-loss program. From the look on her website photo, she does not approve of my decision to stop. She may even be mentally calling me a bad name (“Thunder Thighs” comes to mind). I dial the phone number on the website and her recorded voice answers: “Do some squats while you wait.”

“I don’t want to do squats,” I whimper.

She gives me the silent treatment.

Day 2

12:10 p.m.: I’ve managed to quit Jillian’s program and download the information on the armband—victory! I learn that in the past 24 hours, I’ve burned 2,200 calories and taken 6,593 steps. I’m short by 90 minutes on my sleep goals. (Hey, you try sleeping with a gassy toddler draped across your midsection.) But with a little effort, I can top my scores for sleep and steps. (With even less effort, I could probably top them for calories consumed.)

12:11 p.m.: My smug feeling dissipates as I realize how my daily step count breaks down:

  • 1,500 steps: brisk walk around neighborhood with the dog.
  • 100 steps: 10 separate trips from my house to the minivan as I leave to drop off and pick up children from three different schools at three different times and then ferry them to sports activities.
  • 10 steps: a session of fetch-the-tennis-ball with my Labrador retriever in the backyard. (Note to self: If scores get depressingly low, see if the band will fit around the dog.)
  • 4,983 steps: Walk upstairs to search for my cellphone, see coffee mug on dresser, realize coffee is cold, start to take it back downstairs to reheat. Get distracted by pile of laundry in hallway and begin to put it away, only to remember my cellphone is still missing. Walk downstairs to search. Repeat approximately a dozen times, searching for missing purse, child’s coat, mittens, while losing cellphone again in the process.

Some experts link video game addiction to attention deficit disorder. If someone comes up with an armband to fix that problem, I’ll be the first in line to buy it.

Sarah Pekkanen’s most recent novel is These Girls (Washington Square Press, 2012). She can be reached at sarah.pekkanen@bethesdamagazine.com.

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