“Active” Video Games Increase Kids’ Indoor Exercise

Healthnotes Newswire (January 24, 2008)—Though still not as good as old fashioned running around outside, the British Medical Journal reports that kids use significantly more energy when playing the new generation of active video games that require body movements or dance than when they sit and play traditional video games.

Researchers compared the energy expenditure of 11 children, ages 13 to 15, when playing sedentary or active video games. Each child played four computer games for 15 minutes each. The four games consisted of one sedentary game on an Xbox 360 and three active games (Wii Sports Boxing, Bowling, and Tennis). In Wii Sports games, participants use rigorous body movements that are similar to movements used while playing the actual sport.

The teenagers’ energy expenditure was at least 50% greater during active gaming when compared with sedentary gaming. It was noted that the boys used more energy during Wii Tennis when compared with the girls.

The authors caution, however, that teenagers use more energy when they actually bowl, box, or play tennis than when playing the Wii version of these sports. They also state that the exercise level achieved while playing the active games was not intense enough to contribute toward the recommended amount of daily physical activity for children, which is at least three times the amount of energy as used when at rest.

“Nevertheless, new generation computer games stimulated positive activity behaviors—the children were on their feet and they moved in all directions while performing basic motor control and fundamental movement skills that were not evident during seated gaming,” said author Lee Graves and colleagues from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at Liverpool John Moores University in England. “Given the current prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity, such positive behaviors should be encouraged.” The authors noted that the energy expenditure during active gaming was at a level that may help contribute to weight management if done regularly.

Adults have also been reported to experience health benefits from using active Wii Sports games. One woman with osteoarthritis of the knee reported weight loss and improved mobility in her knee with the use of such gaming. Still other clinicians report that injury may occur with active video gaming much like they see with regular sports activity.

Since the use of active gaming is increasing in popularity and is unlikely to slow down any time soon, further research is needed to investigate its clinical benefits, safety issues, and energy demands in both young people and adults.

(BMJ 2007;335:22–9; BMJ www.bmj.com/cgi/eletters/335/7633/1282#184568)

Jane Hart, MD, board-certified in internal medicine, serves in a variety of professional roles including consultant, journalist, and educator. Dr. Hart, a Clinical Instructor at Case Medical School in Cleveland, Ohio, writes extensively about health and wellness and a variety of other topics for nationally recognized organizations, Web sites, and print publications. Sought out for her expertise in the areas of integrative and preventive medicine, she is frequently quoted by national and local media. Dr. Hart is a professional lecturer for healthcare professionals, consumers, and youth and is a regular corporate speaker.

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