Active game, healthy kid?


Can an active video game have a positive impact on a child’s physical fitness? Apparently not.  Researchers looked into the question of whether giving a kid a new “active” video game, that required physical movement, would encourage them to move more than usual.  They wanted to see if it would be beneficial to provide active video games to children who could not play outside because they lived in a dangerous neighborhood.  Increasing physical activity in children is thought to decrease the risk of weight-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes later in life.

An active video game, such as “Just Dance” or “Wii fit,” allows children to engage in vigorous physical activity. This study tested if a child would engage in more physical activity after receiving a new active video game.  One theory suggested that the novelty of a new game, as opposed to a game that they had already played, would make a difference in the amount of activity.

The participants were nine to twelve year old kids that were split into a randomized clinical trial. Half of the children got active video games and half got inactive video games.

Their physical activity was monitored on accelerometers 5 times over 12 weeks.  Each time, they were to wear their accelerometers for seven days straight.  They also filled out activity logs.   Participants were told that they would be allowed to keep the games and Wii consoles if they complied fully with the study instructions. There were 78 participants in this study and researchers reported that, surprise, compliance was very high because the kids really wanted to keep the game consoles.  The results came back showing no significant increase in physical activity in the active game players when compared to the inactive game players.

The researchers concluded that the use of active video games was not a good tool for increasing physical activity in children.

This is important because the results show that even a game that demands your child to move his/her entire body will not make your kid significantly more physically active. Even the lure of a new game would not induce an otherwise sedentary child to move more.  I guess there really is no substitute for gym class.

Baranowski, T., Abdelsamad, D., Baranowski, J., O’Connor, T. M., Thompson, D., Barnett, A., … Chen, T. (2012). Impact of an Active Video Game on Healthy Children’s Physical Activity. PEDIATRICS, 129(3), e636-e642. Doi:10.1542/peds.2011-2050

4 thoughts on “Active game, healthy kid?

  1. Patrick Ryan

    That’s an interesting topic to write about because like others said why are companies making games that are like exercise. Its nice to see that you can incorporate things we’ve learned in class to an outside topic. I decided to see if other types of video games, for example games involving violence like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty are linked to a certain behavior. In fact, scientists say kids become more aggressive in their lives if they play these types of games. Here is an article on more information about this topic…

  2. Marvin Barnhill

    I was interested in your post because i was one of those kids who played kinect and wii all the time. It can definitley be argued that this would not cause people to move any more however if the time would have been spent sitting down and playing video games vs. standing up and moving around, there could be a small difference but a difference nonetheless. I found a study that contradicts your findings by the University of Tennessee. There is always another story to tell, another experiment to be done.

  3. Raegan S Pechar

    This is a really interesting concept! You would assume that an active video game would mean it actually makes kids more active, right? I actually found another study, where the results support this assumption. In this study kids were told to go outside and play for 20 minutes, while some stayed inside and played various active video games – the results found that the indoor exercise was actually more intense than outdoors! Now, because of the split consensus I definitely want this matter to be further explored!

  4. Matthew Edward Simco

    Coming from somebody who used to play a lot of video games, I found this article very entertaining. Many scientists actually believe playing video games can make children smarter. I have always known that, but I have never thought about how video games could be good physically for the body. There just simply isn’t enough movement involved even in game systems such as the Wii or Xbox Kinect. Imagine if video games which were beneficial to one’s health were created. This would truly be the best of both worlds, as children could have fun while staying fit, all without ever leaving their house. One style of gaming which could work as physical exercise would be holographic gaming. This article posted below talks about the possibility of holographic gaming, and how far we are from it.

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