Video Game Improves One Teen’s Diabetes

After starting his DDR habit, Michael Twede’s A1Cs have dropped almost two percentage points

| Mar 1, 2005

It’s pretty much a truism that video games are bad for children’s health. They hold their minds hostage, promote sedentary behavior and can even desensitize them to violence.

But there’s one video game that has been good for the health of one Utah teenager.

That teen is my son, Michael Twede.

Michael was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes four years ago at the age of 13. After the usual getting-to-know-you period of trying to get blood glucose and insulin regimens in line, he finally settled into a routine of fairly good control.

Michael would count all of his carbohydrates and inject an appropriate amount of insulin to help metabolize them.

Keeping control of blood glucose in a rapidly growing boy can be a challenge, however. There are many factors that can affect the blood glucose levels of young diabetics. Carbohydrates are an obvious factor in raising blood glucose, and exercise is a major contributor to lowered blood glucose levels.

Getting enough exercise is good advice for all of us, but it can be even more vital to people trying to keep blood glucose in control.

You would expect that a teenager like Michael would be in a constant state of physical activity, but things have changed for teens over the past few years.

Teens aren’t as active as they were even a decade ago. Ask any parent today, and he or she will tell you how their teens lounge around watching the television or playing video games. Video games and surfing the Web take up time that was traditionally spent outside riding bicycles and playing.

But at our house, things have recently changed for the better.

Sound, Lights, Action!

Dance Dance Revolution, or “DDR,” as it has been nicknamed, is a craze that started in Japanese video arcades several years ago and was introduced to the United States a couple of years later.

The game uses a large video-game station with a dancing platform, large speakers and flashing neon lights. The player selects a song by tempo and complexity, then dances to the music, doing the moves choreographed by the scrolling arrows on the video screen. At video arcades, the scene usually draws a crowd as kids cheer on the dancer and adults stand by baffled by the spectacle.

All of that physical activity does wonders for diabetic teens hooked on the popular game.

Until recently, Michael’s A1C was trending upward to 8.7%. After developing his DDR habit, Michael’s recent A1C was 7.1%, close to his goal of less than 7%, and he aims to get it even lower.

Dance Dance Revolution Comes Home

Until recently, teens had to get their DDR fix by going to the video arcade. Playing DDR at the arcade can be a frustrating experience, however, because the popularity of the game makes it hard to get enough playing time.

“There’s always a line,” says Michael. “You end up waiting most of the time.”

But those days of waiting are over—at least for Michael.

A Utah-based company called Cobalt Flux recently donated a home dance pad, which they manufacture, to Michael.

“We’re really excited that our product has had that effect,” says co-founder Brian Foley. “We knew that DDR could be complementary to school physical education programs, but this is a total surprise.”

Michael now dances for up to four hours at a time at home, with his new DDR dance pad hooked up to his Playstation 2 video-game system.

Cobalt Flux began making DDR dance pads in 2002, when founders Matt Andersen and Brian Foley were facing the same frustrations that Michael experienced at the arcades. The two 20-year-olds have three partners and three employees and ship their product worldwide via Internet sales. Because of the beneficial fitness aspects of DDR, their product will soon be available through major physical fitness catalogs.

The basement family room of our suburban home is becoming somewhat of a video arcade itself. These days, Michael’s friends are constantly coming over to get their DDR fill.

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Categories: A1c Test, Blood Glucose, Diabetes, Diabetes, Exercise, Insulin, Personal Stories, Type 1 Issues

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Mar 1, 2005

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