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USF studies childhood fitness through gaming

USF is conducting a study to examine elementary school students’ experiences in a gaming environment requiring physical activity.

USF installed a room for such a gaming enviornment, called XRKade, at Belle Witter Elementary School in Tampa about two weeks ago. It was funded by a grant given to the College of Public Health and the College of Education by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal agency that conducts and supports public health activities.

The College of Education’s School of Physical Education and Exercise Science will conduct the research.

XRKade is manufactured by iTech Fitness, a company that develops active-gaming technology.

Lisa Hansen, co-director of the University’s XRKade Research Lab and a doctoral student, said the department already has an XRKade in its lab but wanted to put another in a school environment.

Hansen has collected data since the room was installed. She will study and collect data on the children’s experience for an eight-week period andsaid she may continue conducting research after the initial eight weeks.

The XRKade is equipped with virtual bikes, Dance Dance Revolution, a virtual snowboard, a Nintendo Wii and other video games that require physical activity.

“It’s a very new industry,” Hansen said. “It’s growing in popularity and there’s very little that we know about it, so that’s what we wanted to focus on.”

Lynda Correia, a physical education teacher at Belle Witter, said her students are extremely excited about the XRKade.

“In this day and age, the technology being the big thing, they all just want to get in there and try all the activities,” she said.

After students are finished using a piece of equipment, they fill out worksheets for Hansen’s research.

“I’m developing the curriculum so they can learn things about their bodies,” she said. “They’re learning things about muscles and their heart rate and intensity levels of their activities.”

“Adding the technology component to it is exciting and motivating to some students (for whom) it would increase their activity level where other activities may not,” Correia said.

The room is open only to fifth-graders, but Correia said she plans to allow fourth-graders to participate soon — and, in time, possibly younger students.