Sebelius Plugs Video Games as Way for Kids to Exercise

Kathleen Sebelius testifies

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a House hearing on March 6, 2012. ( Starr)

( – Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius joined star athletes Tuesday in plugging video games as a way to get children to exercise.

Sebelius also promoted what she called a “new partnership” between the federal government and the “video game industry.”

Playing “active” video games can help Americans earn The Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, an online challenge that requires 60 minutes of physical activity a day for children or 30 minutes a day for adults, five days a week for six out of eight weeks.

“Thanks to our new partnership with the video game industry, we are adding a new piece to the puzzle,” Sebelius said, as she unveiled the new collaboration between the Entertainment Software Association and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports Nutrition.

“Children can now use popular video games like “Dance Dance Revolution,” “Wii Fit Plus,” and “Just Dance 3” to meet their challenge requirements and log their physical activity online,” Sebelius said.

“What we want is to make sure, as part of the exercise routine, that families also add moving around to their program and eating a healthier snack — having some carrot sticks instead of the chips.  Figuring out that what you put in your body fuels your body and makes you stronger at the same time,” she said.

Joining Sebelius at a Washington, D.C. middle school were Michael Gallagher, the president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association; tennis star Billie Jean King, Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes, and Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan. The athletes are members of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports Nutrition. asked Billie Jean King if she thinks it is the government’s role to encourage healthy eating and physical activity for kids. 

“Yeah I do, because for the economics of this country I do,” she said. “I have read—and I don’t know how accurate this is—that by 2020 that the health aspect of our budget is going to be at 20 percent of our entire budget,” King added.  “So, this is about the health of our nation, not only physically and emotionally and mentally, but it means also helping our economy because of the health issues with obesity.”

King said obesity is the “most difficult challenge,” because it can lead to heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other maladies. “And what happens when we don’t have good health — our insurance goes up.  So it’s really a circle of life that it’s very, very important to try to be healthy.

“The earlier you can do it, the better,” she added.

The Entertainment Software Association, which includes Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony and EA Sports, plans to incorporate the presidential physical fitness challenge (called PALA+) in its marketing of active video games.

“Seven of the ESA member companies have stepped up to the plate to promote the President’s Council Award mechanism, said Chris Watts, who manages special projects for the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

Watts said ESA will use social media and Internet marketing to promote the PALA+ award and later will use the PALA logo in its video game packaging. The partnership also will involve “educational pieces to let people know why it’s important to be active and what you can do to help yourself live a healthier lifestyle,” he said.

ESA will not receive any funding for the initiative; Watts said the partners are simply acting in support of the mission.

The President’s Challenge website offers workout guidelines for various “active” video games. The PALA Plus challenge also sets a weekly goal for healthy eating, such as choosing water over sugary drinks and making half your plate fruits and vegetables.

People who complete the PALA+ challenge receive a certificate signed by the co-chairs of the President’s Council. They also can purchase a certificate signed by President Barack Obama.


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