They isolate children socially and distract them from learning, right? Think again. Researchers have found that kids who clock up regular console time can improve their hand-eye coordination, their grip on science, even their IQ.
A British study of 700 children found that simulation games developed children’s strategic thinking and planning skills. And researchers from the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta suggest that computer games can be a great way to explain physics concepts. Their game Siege integrates the concept of projectile movement and brings the effects of wind velocity and vertical angle into play.
In another project, done in 2004, students at Edmonton’s Holy Trinity Catholic High School created their own computer-game stories. Findings showed that while only one-third of the students were interested in writing a second story as a traditional narrative, two-thirds wanted to write another interactive story – even if it meant homework!
BUT WATCH OUT! Some games can create stress-like symptoms, with younger children more affected because they are less able to distinguish between fact and fiction. Ensure the computer is somewhere you can see it, and monitor its use.
Listening to loud music
If you despair over the thumping soundtrack blasting from your teen’s room, you may be surprised to learn it could be doing him some good.
There’s scientific evidence that the greater the music’s intensity, the more pleasure it brings, according to research from Britain’s University of Manchester. It has to do with the vestibular system, which is responsible for balance but also carries vibration; when sound waves set it off, it sends a positive message to the brain. Study author Neil Todd believes it’s a hangover from a primitive acoustic sense connected to basic drives such as hunger and sex.
But if the result is hearing loss, surely it’s not worth it? Todd discovered that although sounds carried across a room had to be louder than 90 decibels (equivalent to a motorcycle or a lawn mower) to produce the vestibular response, sounds carried through mass — such as the floor or a speaker you’re leaning against — only need to be 30 decibels to achieve the same sensation.
BUT WATCH OUT! Cumulative noise causes damage. Marshall Chasin, doctor of audiology, says it’s okay to go to a 100-plus decibel rock concert as long as you don’t use a power mower the next day. In fact, Chasin recommends taking a break of 16 to 18 hours from noise after a concert to let your ears recover. And when it comes to iPods and other personal players, Chasin cites the 60/120 rule: It’s safe to listen at 60-percent volume for 120 minutes a day.
Pounding the pavement
Running, particularly on roads, has been blamed for wear and tear on the knees, which can lead to osteoarthritis. But a new study shows that those who run regularly are actually less likely to develop the condition than those who don’t.
It seems that running can strengthen the cartilage around the knee, preventing degeneration. Researchers at Monash University in Victoria, Australia, followed 300 adults, age 50 to 79, over a decade and found that cartilage volume increased in those who exercised the most.
Regular running can also reduce pain: A study at California’s Stanford University found that older people engaging in regular exercise, including running, reported 25 percent less musculoskeletal pain than did sedentary people.
So does this mean people with osteoarthritis can run? Yes! While the safest option for people with joint problems is to take up a lower-impact exercise such as swimming, walking or cycling, according to Laurie Hurley of The Arthritis Society in Toronto, “runners without joint problems who train well, run regularly and watch their weight can demonstrate a lower likelihood of developing osteoarthritis than those who don’t exercise at all.”
BUT WATCH OUT! Make sure the shoe fits. Physiotherapist and triathlete and Cheryl Murphy, says the most important thing for avoiding injury is a good pair of running shoes, fitted by an expert. It’s also important to listen to your body and start out slowly. “Most people,” says Murphy, “should start with a walk/run program.”