Active Sports Video Games Not Increasing Exercise In Children
February 27, 2012

Active Sports Video Games Not Increasing Exercise In Children

A new study, published in Pediatrics, calls into question the health benefits of so-called active video games, in which players use their bodies to simulate sports or dancing, reports Jennifer Warner for WebMD.

Previous laboratory studies showed initial promise in allowing children to increase physical activity in children with sports and motion-oriented video games, but researchers say the new study offers no reason to believe that children actually increase their physical activity more than those given games they could play while remaining stationary.

Researchers remain hopeful that such games will increase exercise in children, but, “is the Wii going to really contribute to getting those sixty minutes of physical activity (a day)? I don´t think it will,” Jacob Barkley, an exercise scientist from Kent State University in Ohio who didn´t participate in the new research, told Genevra Pittman of Reuters.

Many public health researchers had hoped that active video games might be an alternative to outdoor play and sports, especially for those who lived in unsafe neighborhoods where playing outside isn´t always an option.

To study this, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, passed out Wii consoles to 78 kids who didn´t already have one, and gave half the kids their choice of active game -- such as Wii Sports or Dance Dance Revolution-Hottest Party 3 -- and the other half their choice of inactive game, such as Disney Sing-It Pop Hits or Super Mario Galaxy.

Halfway through the study, the kids, between the ages of 9 and 12 years old with above average weight, got their choice of a second game from the same category as their first. Tom Baranowski and his colleagues tracked them for 13 weeks, testing their physical activity levels with an accelerometer.

Participants were generally good at complying with the wearing of the testing equipment as they were promised to keep the Wii after the study was over. Accelerometer logs showed that throughout the study period, kids with the active games didn´t get any more exercise than those given inactive video games.

At weeks one, six, seven and 12, kids in the active game group got an average of 25 to 28 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity each day -- compared to between 26 and 29 minutes in the inactive video game group.

There was also no difference in minutes spent doing light physical activity or being sedentary during any week the researchers monitored, they reported. “We expected that playing the video games would in fact lead to a substantial increase in physical activity in the children,” Baranowski told Pittman.

“Frankly we were shocked by the complete lack of difference.”


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