From Our 2012 Archives

Active Video Games May Not Get Kids More Active

Dancing or Sports Video Games May Not Influence Children's Physical Activity

By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News

Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD

Feb. 27, 2012 -- Giving children an "active" dancing or sports video game may not necessarily make them more active.

A new study shows that children given active video games were no more physically active than those given more stationary video games.

Researchers say the results call into question the health benefit of so-called active video games, in which players use their bodies to simulate sports or dancing.

Previous laboratory studies have shown some increase in physical activity in children given active video games.

But researchers say their study offers no reason to believe that giving children an active game under normal circumstances at home will increase their physical activity.

Active vs. Inactive Video Games

In the study, published in Pediatrics, researchers gave 87 children aged 9-12 years old a Wii game console and either two active video games or two inactive video games. The active video games included games in which players dance or use their bodies to simulate sports like bowling or boxing.

The children kept logs of their play times and wore an accelerometer to measure their physical activity levels over a 12-week period.

The results showed that children who were given active games were not more physically active in general or at any time than the other children, even though they said they liked the active games.

The results were the same regardless of whether the children were overweight or if they lived in an unsafe neighborhood and were not allowed to play outside.

Researchers say the children either opted not to play the active games at the same level of intensity as in the lab studies or they chose to be less active at other times of the day to compensate for the increased activity.

This study was designed to recreate a natural environment in which children were given a new video game console and no instructions on what to play.

But researchers say previous studies have shown that providing explicit instructions to use active video games appears to increase physical activity, which could make the games useful as part of a set of healthy interventions.

SOURCES: Baranowski, T. Pediatrics, March 2012.News release, American Academy of Pediatrics.

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