Steve Sanders and Lisa Witherspoon

USF professor and doctoral student

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Is it possible to convince kids to put down the video game joystick and head outside to exercise? University of South Florida Exercise Science professor Steve Sanders and his doctoral student Lisa Witherspoon are doubtful, so they've embarked on a research project to bring exercise to video games. Every week, a class from the university's Patel Charter School visits the XRKade — an interactive fitness gym. Eventually, if the research pans out, Sanders and Witherspoon hope to introduce the concept to Florida's public schools.

Denver-based company iTECH Fitness donated XRKade to USF. It is the first lab of its kind in the country.

The lab has 11 stations, including two Dance Dance Revolution games, a snowboard simulator and a Playstation console attached to two bicycles, which require the players to pedal in order to race their car or motorbike.

Witherspoon invited all of Hillsborough County's physical education teachers to XRKade. "They think it's amazing," she says.

In West Virginia, all 765 public schools will incorporate the interactive game Dance Dance Revolution into physical education curriculum over the next few years.

Witherspoon says XRKade completely changes the social atmosphere of P.E. "In sports, obese kids are picked last," she says. "But the obese kids here [at the lab] are just as good. I've seen that the athletic kids will play with the obese, non-athletic kids in a positive social setting."

"We don't want to say this is a cure for everything," says Sanders. "We still want kids out playing ball, running and jumping. We're trying to bridge the gap between sitting and playing."

Check out these numbers on teen obesity. 

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