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Study – Active Video Games Won’t Necessarily Lead to Active Kids

Study – Active Video Games Won’t Necessarily Lead to Active Kids – The AAP has released a study regarding the physical activity associated with video games designed to get kids moving. In the study’s findings (below), the AAP concludes that “active” video games may not have the physical health benefit that many parents expect when buying these types of games.

Like many kids, my kids are heavy into their Nintendo Wii video games. “Active” video games like the Just Dance games, the Wii Fit franchise games, and Wii Sports games receive higher consideration for gifts from me than video games where kids don’t have leave to couch. I have personally found that these games can be physically beneficial to kids. Like the AAP study results suggest, you do have to outline how the games are going to be used.

Here are some “active” video games that kids can play and some suggestions for how get some physical benefit for kids out of them:

The Just Dance video games – Kids grab their video game controller and mimic the dance moves verbatim using their controller. Have the child pick 3 or more different songs. Make sure they pick an appropriate skill level and assign the songs like a workout. I’ve actually gotten a nice workout out of these songs too and playing with your children motivates them to try to beat “high scores” and get the heart rate up!

The Wii Fit games – The Wii Fit games are a mix of Yoga, strength-training (although mild), cardio and skill games. The skill games aren’t going to burn many calories but the others do a pretty fair job in terms of exercise. Set up a program for your child to make sure they do 20-30 minutes (the game itself keeps track of progress and calories burned) of Wii Fit minus the skill games (like snowball fight). I always use Wii Fit as a precursor. If they want to play Mario Kart for 30 minutes they have to do 30 minutes of Wii Fit first!

Wii Sports – I agree with the AAP results here. There really isn’t that much physical benefit to these games. Some maybe, but not much. The Wii Sports games get kids on their feet and are a blast to play but there’s not a lot to be found here in terms of real physical exercise.

The results of the AAP study on physical video games may not be all bad news. In reading the results, you could conclude that the AAP merely suggests parents monitor how the games are being used. Until they make a video game that encourages kids to exercise more than playing video games (never), parents will have best results from “active” games by enforcing the exercise part of the video game over the recreational part.

Here is the statement from the AAP regarding active video games played by children:


Simply giving a child an “active” video game will not necessarily increase his or her physical activity, according to the study, “Impact of an Active Video Game on Healthy Children’s Physical Activity,” in the March 2012 Pediatrics (published online Feb. 27). Researchers gave 87 children a game console, and either two “active” video games or two “inactive” games. Examples of active games include those in which players dance or use their bodies to simulate bowling. The children kept a log of their play times, and their activity levels were measured over a 12-week period using an accelerometer (a device that measures acceleration and exertion). The children who were given active games were not more physically active than those given inactive games. The authors note that children have played active video games with moderate to vigorous physical activity in laboratory settings, but that did not translate to “real life.” They theorize that the children either did not elect to play the active games at the same level of intensity as in the lab, or they chose to be less active at other times of the day. However, providing explicit instructions to use the active games appeared to lead to increased physical activity, which could make the games useful as part of interventions that prescribe using the games for a set amount of time.

SOURCE: Pediatrics (March 2012)

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