'Exergames' Alone Do Not Improve Fitness Levels
July 16, 2012

‘Exergames’ Alone Do Not Improve Fitness Levels

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

So-called ℠active´ video games that involve moving, dancing, karate chopping, or drumming help gamers to burn more calories than sedentary games, but they are no substitute for physical exercise, according to a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

That´s because the active gamers in the study tended to take in more calories by snacking than they burned by playing the games. Researchers found that they ate 376 more calories than they burned. That compared to around a 650-calorie surplus among study participants that chose to watch television or play inactive games instead.

The latest study builds on previous research that highlighted the unhealthy nature of spending hours on the couch in front of a television.

"There have been a couple of studies that have shown that TV watching and video playing increase eating, and they increase eating when compared to doing nothing," lead author Elizabeth Lyons, a researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), told Reuters Health.

In the study, Lyons and her team allowed 120 experienced gamers to watch TV, play sedentary games, or active video games. The participants were asked not to eat for 2 hours before their mealtime-scheduled appointments. Researchers recorded appetite levels before each session began, and then observed them for one hour.

As participants watched shows or played games such as Street Fighter IV or Dance Dance Revolution - chocolate, chips, trail mix, and sodas were easily accessible.

Lyons and her team found that sedentary video gamers ate the most, averaging over 747 calories during the hour long session. The study said that active gamers ate only slightly less, taking in around 553 calories on average.

"People will always find a way to eat," Lyons told Reuters reporter Natasja Sheriff. "No matter what group they were in they still ate a remarkable amount."

Study participants took in an average of 672 calories per one hour session, which is the equivalent of about a third of the daily intake recommended for women by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and just under a one-fourth of the recommendation for men.

Researchers also noted that men tended to eat more than women, with some sedentary gamers eating in excess of 1000 calories. Participants´ weight did not play a factor in how many calories they consumed, the researchers added.

This study comes on the heels of another report on ℠exergames´ published earlier this year by a joint team of American and Chinese researchers that attempted to determine if active games encourage more physical activity.

In that study, the participants wore accelerometers periodically to measure their physical activity over the course of 13 weeks. The researchers then distributed the consoles and games without instructions on exercising.

The study found “no evidence that children receiving the active video games were more active in general, or at any time, than children receiving the inactive video games.”

“When you prescribe increased physical activity, overall activity remains the same because the subjects compensate by reducing other physical activities during the day,” said study co-author Anthony Barnett, an exercise physiologist who is a consultant at the University of Hong Kong.