Playing Active Video Games Can Spur Weight Loss
September 25, 2012

Playing Active Video Games Can Spur Weight Loss

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Some days you read stories about new discoveries in the field of science which explain previously unexplained phenomena and behaviors. Other days, you read stories which seem as needless as adding foundation and support beams to the formations of Monument Valley. These stories do nothing more than provide proof for common sense concepts which require no extra support and provide no real benefit other than keeping these scientists employed for another day. Idle hands, and all.

Thus, this latest study from the University of Chester in England, which reveals that physical activity that raises heart rate can have “exercise-like effects,” no matter the activity. More specifically to this study, children who get worked up when they play games like Wii Boxing or Guitar Hero (if they´re playing it the right way) are essentially exercising whilst knocking out their contenders or shredding plastic to a simulated guitar solo.

The English researchers noted this was an important point to make, as sedentary lifestyles and stationary games can lead to childhood obesity. As these games not only promote movement but are also fun, parents could use these games as an incentive to get kids moving.

To conduct this study, the researchers allowed 10 boys and 8 girls, ages 11 to 15, to play some active games, such as Dance Central and Kinect Sports: Boxing for the Xbox 360 Kinect platform.

The key to these games is the Kinect controller, which watches the players movements and translates them to the characters on the screen. In other words, movement is a main element of game play.

As the child participants played these active, motion-based games, they increased their energy expenditure over resting rate by up to 150% during Dance Central and 263% during Kinect: Boxing. Compared to traditional video games of yesteryear, which mostly involve slumping back on a couch, the energy expended while playing these games was 103 and 194 percent higher, respectively.

Michael M. Morris, MSc, of the University of Chester and his colleagues found that if children were to play these games for the same amount of time they´re playing the sedentary and stationary games, (about 1.9 hours a day) they could lose nearly 3 pounds a month. To be fair, any kind of activity which raises energy expenditure by this amount would yield the same results. However, since children are already playing video games for nearly 2 hours a day, this might be the easiest way to get them moving.

Extra activities may still be necessary, according to Dr. Morris.

"Although it is unlikely that active video game play can single-handedly provide the recommended amount of physical activity for children or expend the number of calories required to prevent or reverse the obesity epidemic, it appears from the results of this study that Kinect active game play can contribute to children's physical activity levels and energy expenditure, at least in the short term," writes Dr. Morris and his team in their paper explaining the results of this story. The paper can be found on line in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Though they´ve “discovered” that even activity in front of a screen can spur weight loss, Dr. Morris and team are careful to say other measures need to be taken to see long-term effects.

"If such virtual activities are to play a part in weight management interventions, they need to be adhered to long term," writes Dr. Morris and his colleagues.

"Whether children, particularly overweight children, are capable of sustaining active game play long enough and on a regular basis to elicit meaningful levels of physical activity, energy expenditure, and, potentially, weight loss are questionable."