Hiking for a good cause

Last week I came across an article titled “How to use your addiction to videogames for good and help CHEO“.  CHEO refers to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (where I did my PhD), and given my research interests, you can understand how that headline would get my attention (to be clear, today’s post represents my own personal views, and not those of CHEO or any of its employees).

From the article:

On Nov. 2, gamers will get the chance to play the game of their choice for 25 hours straight and raise so much-needed money for CHEO and the Children’s Miracle Network when the annual Extra-Life game-a-thon returns.

Now in its fifth year, Extra-Life invites gamers of every stripe, from Gameboy and PC to board games and old-school consoles, to play for 25 hours straight. Participants can play as part of a team, or individually, from their own home, office, school or lab.

You can see how this might be… problematic.  Research from the lab where I conducted my PhD has found that video game use is closely associated with health risk in children and youth.  We also led systematic reviews concluding that even short bouts of uninterrupted sitting (e.g. 25 hours of video game playing) result in increased health risk.  Case reports have also suggested that uninterrupted gaming can result in Deep Vein Thrombosis (a blood clot that forms in the legs following prolonged immobilization, which can become fatal if the clot becomes dislodged and travels to the lungs).  So promoting video games in general (and video game marathons in general), is not ideal from a public health perspective.

I checked out the Extra-Life page  to find out a bit more about the program.  The program is organized by gamers, and the money goes to the Children’s Miracle Network, which is a network of different children’s hospitals around North America.  And yes, Extra-Life is primarily a fundraiser built around prolonged video game use.  But you can also sign up to do just about anything you like (most people do attempt the gaming marathon, however). Given Extra-Life’s flexibility, some friends and I have decided to do an alternative Extra-Life fundraiser this Saturday, October 26.

For our fundraiser we will be going for a walk on the Wolf Trail in Gatineau Park on Oct 26.  The walk is 8km long, and will take 2-3 hours (more details on the route here).  We will be meeting at 1pm in parking lot P13, which is at the end of Chemin du lac Meech (see the “P” on the map below). Here’s the best part – you are invited to join us!  We’re asking that people bring a small donation with them (no donation is too small!), but that’s it.  You can also donate online by clicking here.

If you have enjoyed this blog over the years, I’d urge you to consider donating a few dollars to a worthy cause (our donations will be going to the CHEO Foundation, the same group that directly supported my PhD research and other projects at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario).  Our hike will also be overlapping with Take Me Outside Day, which seems very appropriate.

I want to be clear that I think the Extra-Life organizers absolutely have their hearts in the right places, and they have raised a lot of money (over 2 million last year) for various children’s hospitals.  That being said (and this is my own personal opinion), I don’t think it’s a great idea for the Children’s Miracle Network to raise money by promoting behaviours that we know are unhealthy (ironically, CMN links to this page, which states that parents should actively limit their children’s screen time).  The fact that Extra-Life requires a “Safety Notice” is a bit of a concern.   I’m hoping that in the future Extra-Life organizers will place more emphasis on raising money through healthy activities (or even intentionally unplugging for a few hours).  The organizers of Extra-Life clearly care a great deal about children’s health – why not use it to improve peoples’ health while raising money to improve kids’ health?

Hope to see you on Saturday!


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