Virtual Fitness, Real Activity

Article excerpt

City of Hialeah Department of Parks and Recreation, Florida

DIRECTOR: Manuel R. Ferrera

INNOVATION: Virtual Fitness Area (VFA) to attract children to recreation programs

SUMMARY: Virtual Fitness Areas powered by Xbox 360 with Kinect system attracts kids to the parks-using technology which many blame for the obesity crisis that our nation is facing today.

The old adage "If you can't beat them, join them" found a practical application with Hialeah's Virtual Fitness Areas. This pilot program uses Xbox Ki¬nect video games to lure kids out to the parks where they can then try the real sports the games are based upon.

"My colleague Ken Soler [aquatics supervisor] and I were brainstorming on several new ideas to engage the youth in the community" says Willie Sanchez. "Basically, we were developing ideas to get the youth back involved in the parks. Video games kept popping up in our heads but we as believers in traditional sports and excise were reluctant to incorporate such games into our parks."

But then Soler and Sanchez saw an Xbox Kinect video¬game system at a friend's house. The system uses an elec¬tronic eye to capture the whole body motions of players, leading to a more active playing style that closely matches actual sports movements. The pair quickly saw the poten¬tial of this system to positively engage the youth in their community.

Fortunately Hialeah's agency culture encourages this type of innovation. Many of the staffgrew up in the com¬munity and are products of Hialeah's parks and recreation system, leading to a strong bond and belief in the system,

''We have been blessed with a director [Manuel R. …