Guest Blog: Computer says wheeze (less)

This guest blog from Munib Haroon takes up the challenge of turning the terror of technology to good…

As I write these words there is a debate currently underway about whether machine intelligence will eclipse ours in the coming decades [for one end of this debate go see James Cameron’s The Terminator] meanwhile another debate about how internet useage should be monitored by ISP’s to track terrorists and other bad folk is just about to take off. It seems that computer’s have both a use and abuse-ability. Another ‘baleful’ effect we all hear about is their contribution to the obesogenic environment – which in a nutshell is that, technology takes kids off the playing fields [“those which weren’t sold off in the eighties!” I hear someone cry] and sticks them in the living rooms leaving them to become obese.

Well here’s something positive for a change.

In this small, single blind, randomised controlled trial 36 children with asthma were allocated to receive either treadmill training twice a week for eight weeks or a comparable time playing on an XBOX. The children in the two groups were similar at the start and had their lung function, aerobic fitness and exhaled nitric oxide levels [as a marker of lung inflammation] measured at the start and end of the trial.

The results showed improvements in aerobic fitness in both groups and more energy expenditure in the XBOX group along with reductions in lung inflammatory levels also in the XBOX group.

The results are interesting, the authors suggest that video games could have a role in fitness progression in asthmatics. Interestingly the loss to follow up in the video games group [35%] was quite a lot larger than the treadmill group [19%] and points to the big issue with many exercise-programs: good results seen over an insufficiently long period which cannot be extrapolated into the long term where ‘stickability’ comes to the forefront. Still, as an asthmatic turned keen runner, I wouldn’t have minded such an option when I was 10, although if given the option of which I’d prefer in my X-mas stockings now, I’d now plump for a treadmill.

Thanks in advance Santa.

  • Munib Haroon

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