Muscle Activation during Exergame Playing

Muscle Activation during Exergame Playing

Pooya Soltani (University of Porto, Portugal) and João Paulo Vilas-Boas (University of Porto, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9522-1.ch015
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Exergames may provide low-cost solutions for playing, training and rehabilitation. Exergame user research, studies the interaction between an exergame and users, in order to provide feedback for game developers and safe and meaningful game play. Detailed evaluations and a coding system based on muscle activation levels are necessary to characterize. This is important when it comes to use exergames in purposes other than fun. The purpose of this chapter was to characterize the muscle activation during a swimming exergame and to compare the level of activation during different conditions. Healthy subjects played bouts of exergame using Xbox360 and Kinect. Muscle activation was monitored for desired muscles on dominant upper limb using wireless electromyography system. An investigation of muscular coordination was also conducted to provide activation sequences of studied muscles. Preliminary results showed that upper trapezius was the most active muscle in all techniques. Results can provide insights for practitioners to have a baseline on application of exergames in their routines.
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Since the beginning of the 21st century, videogames have become one of the main sources of entertainment for a wide range of individuals. Statistics show that fifty nine percent of Americans were playing video games in 2014 (Entertainment Software Association [ESA], 2014). By that time, fifty one percent of American households were playing computer or video games on different platforms such as computers, videogame consoles (Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation, and Nintendo), handheld consoles (Sony PSP, Nintendo DS), iPods, and mobile telephones.

On the other hand, a growing body of research have shown negative effects associated with playing video games (Ferguson, 2007; Gentile, Lynch, Linder, & Walsh 2004). Indeed, in the recent years, research has linked excessive screen time to a variety of health and social problems (Brown & Witherspoon, 2002). According to Martínez-González, Martínez, Hu, Gibney, & Kearny (1999), there are inverse associations between leisure-time physical activity and BMI which works independently from the amount of time spent sitting down affecting BMI directly.

Other authors associated the time children spend watching television, playing electronic games, and using computers, with an increased risk of obesity (Janz et al., 2002; Puska, 2009; Salmon, campbell, & Crawford, 2006). However, new studies are showing that screen time is not the only factor responsible for obesity (Jackson, von Eye, Fitzgerald, Witt, & Zhao, 2011).

Over the past decade, the gaming market has been facing rapid changes and video games have attracted new audiences, such as women and the elderly. A recent development in video game industry has led to design interactive video games, often tagged as exergames. These games incorporate some degrees of physical activity during the game play and players have to use body movements to progress in the games (Peng, Lin, & Crouse, 2011). Such platforms offer motion-sensitive controllers (accelerometers, gyroscopes, cameras, exercise equipment, pads and mats, and pressure sensors) taking the human computer interaction to another level. These games are usually controlled using large body movements alleged to make the player exert or develop motor abilities during game play. Popular exergame platforms include Microsoft Xbox 360 and Kinect, Nintendo Wii, Sony Playstation Move, Cateye fitness, and Xavix. These platforms use gaming technology and mechanics to support various forms of physical activity.

Previous instruments to measure the impact of video games were questionnaires, observations, and video analysis while newer methods of performance analysis may use log files and biophysical tools. The main differences of methods lie in subjective versus technology driven aspects of evaluation (Mishler, Lo Bue-Estes, Patrick, & Tobin, 2014). Some methods might be very objective when it comes to applying them in other contexts (e.g. using log files in an exergame designed for healthy people while it is going to be used for stroke patients). In order to adapt traditional evaluation to exergames, technology-driven methods are required.

Today, measuring emotional levels of players is done using different methods. Many tools and methodologies have been proposed to understand user experience playing digital games (Chanel, Kivikangas, & Ravaja, 2012). Psychophysiological responses (e.g. electrocardiography (ECG), electrodermal activity (EDA), and electromyography (EMG) along with psychological questionnaires) are used more and more to measure user experience. By using psychophysiological analysis, researchers are able to analyze the game experience with greater detail (Nacke, Lindley, & Stellmach, 2008).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Exergame User Research: It focuses on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies.

Electromyography: Electromyography is a technique for recording and evaluating the electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles.

Kinematics: Kinematics involves the study of the size, sequencing, and timing of movement, without reference to the forces that cause or result from the motion.

Power Analysis: A process that allows to decide: (a) how large a sample is needed to enable accurate statistical judgment and (b) calculate the minimum effect size that is likely to be detected in a study using a given sample size.

Microsoft Xbox 360: The second video game console developed by and produced for Microsoft and the successor to the Xbox, a seventh generation videogame console which integrates Kinect, which allows the players to interact with the Xbox 360 without the need to touch a game controller, through a natural user interface using gestures and spoken commands.

Exergame: A portmanteau of “exercise” and “game” is a term used for video games that are also a form of exercise.

Isometric Exercise: Muscle action in which tension is developed but there are not any changes in joint position.

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