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