Active video games may help children’s fitness levels

Want your technology obsessed child to stay active? Then you’ll be relieved to know technology may be able to help you win that battle. A new study, published in the scientific journal JAMA Paediatrics, has found that playing active video games is a great way to help overweight children increase their fitness levels and even lose weight.

The researchers incorporated video gaming into a 16-week paediatric obesity intervention programme, featuring children ages 8 through 12.

Participants enrolled in JOIN for ME, a family-based paediatric weight-management programme created by United Health Group, based at Minnetonka, Minnestota.

Half of participants were given Xbox 360 consoles with Kinect from Microsoft Corp. while the other half completed the physical activity programme “as usual.”

Researchers provided both study groups with instructions regarding physical activity, and participants who received the Xbox 360 consoles with Kinect did not receive any additional instructions concerning game use or how long to play.

Children who used the gaming system increased their daily moderate-to-vigorous activity by 7,5 minutes, with one-third of that time focused on vigorous play. While both study groups lost weight, participants who used the active gaming consoles had a much greater (more than 100%) reduction in relative weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) percentile.

This more than doubled the impact of the weight management programme and showed that utilising active video gaming in a paediatric weight-management program yields positive results.

“Considering that study participants were given no instructions related to gameplay suggests that if they were given specific goals for active gaming, the results could be even more impressive,” said lead author, Dr Stewart Trost, from the Centre for Research on Exercise, Physical Activity and Health at the University of Queensland.

Previous studies on active video gaming as a way of promoting physical activity among children (including those done in 2010 and 2012) have also been positive.

One of the studies, published last May, showed that high-intensity games elicited an energy expenditure equivalent to moderate-intensity exercise, while a second study, published last October, found that exercise games play a beneficial role in getting teens fit – particularly when it comes to self-conscious teens who struggle with their weight.