Console players win on their points
Keep-fit women are biggest buyers of computer games.
They are often cited as part of the couch potato lifestyle, and a main reason why children are becoming fat and inactive. But game consoles are now being used increasingly by women as a way of keeping fit. Retailers have reported record sales of console activity games, which often use dance mats, and women have been the biggest customers. Fitness experts now say that this new trend can be nothing but beneficial for people's health.
Mary Sheppard, spokeswoman for Fitness Wales, said, "I think these active computer games are fantastic. They are an excellent form of aerobic exercise, they are safe and above all they are fun."
Dance mat games have become the most popular active console game int he country. Players complete dance routines by moving their feet and jumping to instructions on the screen. The harder the routine, the more points the player scores.
"People have always wanted to dance and the mats are great for getting people moving," Ms Sheppard said.
Top of the PlayStation One sales chart is Dance: UK, a dance mat and game developed for Sony by Aberystwyth-based Broadsword Interactive. It worked in conjunction with the University of Wales Aberystwyth, and professional dancers were used to make the moves and routines realistic.
David Rowe, managing director of Broadsword Interactive, said, "Active games encourage kids to get up, move around and get sweaty. The game was produced with the slogan: 'fit kis, not fat kids' which appeals to parents who want their children to be energetic and healthy. There's an aerobics mode and calorie-counter on the game, so it seems women are increasingly using the dance mats originally bought for their children, for themselves."
With levels ranging from beginners to advanced, the mats appeal to people who want to excercise in the comfort of their own home and those who want to ease themselves into the exercise regime gently.
Yvonne Edwards, landlady of the New Inn in Llanddewi-Brefi, near Aberystwyth, originally bought a dance mat for her nephew and niece, but ended up using it nearly everyday herself. "I haven't excerised since school," the 43-year-old said. "But it looked like a bit of a laugh when the kids were using it, so I gave it a go. I have been using it for a few months now and definitely feel fitter and healthier."
Computer game marketing has often been male targeted and sales figures have show that men have always bought the majority of consoles and games. High street retailer Game says that this trend is changing. Sales figures for the latest dance mat game Pop Idol and the interactive camera game Eye-Toy for the Playstation show that women have been buying more copies of these games than any other.
Anna Macario, marketing director for Game, said, "We have definitely seen more women coming into our stores and more mothers buying games for their daughters as well as their sons. Women tend to prefer games in which more than one person plays - and the whole family can join in with these active games."
Prices start at 9.99 for a dance mat and 9.99 for a dance mat game. "Cheaper than joining a gym," Ms Macario added. "Active games which get you moving will only become more and more popular in the future - expecially with women." Michelle Byrne.