Active Video Games Work!

Excerpted from an article in this month’s Contemporary Pediatrics, this is great news and we’re glad to spread it.

Video exercise games give kids a workout

Children who participate in interactive video or electronic exercise games (exergames) get a workout that is comparable to or better than walking on a treadmill, according to a small study conducted at GoKids Boston, a youth fitness research and training center. Study results were published online in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Researchers from Brigham Young University and the University of Massachusetts studied 39 healthy boys and girls with different body mass indexes (BMIs) to examine how much energy they expended during 6 exergames and while walking on a treadmill at 3 miles per hour. Exergames included DanceDanceRevolution, Lightspace (Bug Invasion), Nintendo Wii (Boxing), Cybex Trazer (Goalie Wars), Sportwall, and XaviX (J-Mat).

All the exergames increased energy expenditure above resting levels, with no between-group differences among normal weight (BMI<85th percentile) and overweight (BMI ≥85th percentile) children. However, some of the games used more energy than others. The highest level of energy expended was during Sportwall , followed by XaviX , Lightspace, Cybex Trazer, DanceDanceRevolution, and Nintendo Wii.

The study also evaluated how the children enjoyed the exergames. Children tend to participate in physical activity that they enjoy, according to the researchers. The boys appeared to enjoy exergames more than the girls. The boys liked Wii Boxing and XaviX J-Mat more than the girls and the girls enjoyed DanceDanceRevolution more than the boys. Boys and girls similarly enjoyed Cybex Trazer, Lightspace, Sportwall, and walking on a treadmill. Interestingly, children with higher BMIs enjoyed exergames more than children with lower BMIs.

“Although exergaming is most likely not the solution to the epidemic of reduced physical activity in children, it appears to be a potentially innovative strategy that can be used to reduce sedentary time, increase adherence to exercise programs, and promote enjoyment of physical activity,” concluded the researchers. “This may be especially important for at-risk populations, specifically children who carry excess body weight.”

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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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