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Mike Hansen, CEO and president of iTECH Fitness, contacted me more than a month ago about an interactive fitness research lab that was opening at the University of South Florida in Tampa, FL. Not much research has been done on interactive fitness in general (mostly just some research on individual equipment) so I was interested in hearing more about the lab. Mike let me know that the XRKade Research Lab in the university‘s School of Physical Education, Wellness and Sports Studies held an open house last Friday with about 100 Y operators, school district personnel, manufacturers and other interested parties on hand throughout the day.

Today, I spoke with Lisa Witherspoon, the doctoral student who is heading the lab. The lab started because of Lisa's interest in interactive fitness (which includes exergaming or screen/video-based equipment). She has a background in physical education and had helped open a fitness facility in New Jersey that offered some interactive fitness equipment. She was amazed at the way the children played with the equipment, she said. Then, she met Dr. Steven Sanders, the chair of the School of Physical Education, Wellness and Sports Studies at USF, who encouraged her to come down to Tampa and do her doctorate in this area, promising that they‘d find space for a lab somewhere on campus.

Well, they certainly did. Now, Lisa is working with several other departments on campus (psychology, physiology, behavioral science, special education and others) to create studies related to interactive gaming. She hopes to publish the results in various journals.

Several Ys and school districts attended the open house on Friday, and several already expressed interest in installing some of the equipment in their facilities.

The XRKade lab was created through donations from iTECH Fitness and the company's corporate partners. Equipment included in the lab (and used once a week by the 5th grade student subjects from three schools located on the campus of the university) are X-Board, Dance Dance Revolution, Game Bikes, 3-Kick, Trazer, iJoy, CoreTrainer and Korebalance.

Lisa hopes to develop curriculum around interactive fitness for schools, and she says that if her studies prove that interactive fitness keeps children motivated and energized about exercising, that fitness facilities will also become more interested in installing this equipment for children. In fact, they might even install the equipment for adults, since many of the parents of the children participating in the studies have visited the lab and want to use the equipment while their children are in school. Lisa even has difficulty keeping the college students who are helping her with the research off of the equipment.

I think some solid research in this area could help convince more Ys, JCCs, university and for-profit facilities that they should invest in more interactive fitness to help keep adult and children members motivated. What a great boost in the retention area if the research shows these products can help.

Do you have interactive fitness equipment installed at your facility? If so, what has the response been? If not, what would make you install the equipment? Use the comment button below to let us know your thoughts.

Read the February issue to find out more about the lab and the open house. - Pam

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