Active video games boost physical activity in kids
In the fight against childhood obesity, video games are often seen as the enemy.
But a new study by researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) suggests that certain blood-pumping video games can actually boost energy expenditures among inner city children, who tend to be at the highest risk for becoming overweight.
“A lot of people say screen time is a big factor in the rising tide of childhood obesity,” says lead author Todd Miller, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Exercise Science at SPHHS.
“But if a kid hates playing dodge ball but loves Dance Dance Revolution why not let him work up a sweat playing E-games?”
Miller and his colleagues recruited 104 kids in grades 3 through 8 from a public school in the District of Columbia.
The researchers wanted to see how traditional P.E. activities would stack up against Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) and another active video game called Winds of Orbis: An Active Adventure (Orbis).
The kids in the study reported to their regularly scheduled physical education classes but then were randomly assigned to three 20 minute sessions of DDR, Orbis or the usual gym class. Kids playing DDR dance along to electronic music in ever-increasing and complicated patterns. Those using Orbis play the role of a virtual superhero that climbs, jumps, slides and has other sorts of active adventures. The testing was supervised by a researcher who measured each child”s energy expenditures during the study sessions.
The researchers discovered that on average kids expended more energy when they participated in the P.E. activities. But the team also found that for children in grades 3 through 5 the active video games also spurred them to move enough to meet the recommended intensity criteria for vigorous activity. That finding suggests that E-gaming might be a useful alternative to traditional physical education—at least for younger school children, Miller said.
The study was recently published in the online edition of the scientific journal Games for Health.