Publication: The Physical and Cognitive Benefits of Casual Exergame Play

Exercise can provide both physical and cognitive benefits to overall health, including long-term and short-term effects on wellness. In order to get these benefits, it is recommended that people perform at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a day; however, many people do not get the recommended amount of exercise per day, which can result in health problems such as obesity and chronic disease. In this thesis, we propose a new genre of games called casual exergames, which we define as exergames that are designed to motivate people to exercise in small chunks of time multiple times throughout the day. Casual exergames have three advantages. First, games have been shown to have a strong motivation pull to play (i.e., people enjoy playing games), and casual games - those designed to be played in small chunks of time - have seen huge market success. Thus, we feel that applying casual game design to exergames will provide players with an enjoyable experience while performing physical activity. Second, research supports the approach of breaking exercise into small chunks, as the physical benefits of three moderate-intensity short bouts of physical activity (each lasting about 10 minutes) are similar to those of one continuous 30-minute bout. Thus, there should be physical benefits of casual exergame play. Third, short bouts of exercise have been shown to yield acute cognitive benefits. Thus a well-designed casual exergame should also produce measurable benefits to cognition. Following this approach, we designed and implemented a causal exergame called GrabApple, using the Microsoft Kinect sensor to detect body movement. Through the evaluation of GrabApple (carried out in three research studies), we show that a well-designed casual exergame can: 1) yield physical activity levels (similar to exercise on a treadmill) that meet the guidelines for moderate-intensity physical activity; 2) produce significant acute benefits to cognition over playing a sedentary version of the game; and 3) be integrated into a school setting with the potential of helping kids achieve physical activity thresholds, while also helping them to refocus throughout the day. In general, our game may encourage adults and school-aged children to get the recommended levels of exercise throughout the day and also obtain the acute cognitive benefits provided by physical activity.


2012. The Physical and Cognitive Benefits of Casual Exergame Play. M.Sc. Thesis, Saskatoon, SK. University of Saskatchewan.


@mastersthesis {
title= {The Physical and Cognitive Benefits of Casual Exergame Play},
year= {2012},
address= {Saskatoon, SK},
school= {University of Saskatchewan}