Even though gaming companies have come out with a slew of interactive consoles that promote movement and activity, a recent study found that playing sports and dancing along with a console does not mean that kids are inherently more prone to leading more physically active lives.
The study, “Impact of an Active Video Game on Healthy Children’s Physical Activity,” published in the journal Pediatrics, found that children who have active video games and play them regularly are not more active than those who don’t. The report also concludes that the results from the study show “no reason to believe” that these video games provide any kind of public health benefit for kids.
Seventy-eight kids between the ages of 9 and 12 were given Wii consoles and were given a choice between “active” games like Wii Fit or Dance Dance Revolution, or “inactive” ones like Mario Kart or Super Mario Galaxy. They were also strapped with accelerometer devices that measured activity levels and could only be removed when showering or swimming. The study found compliance rates to be very high because participants were told they could keep the consoles after the 13-week duration if they obeyed the rules and kept the accelerometers on.
Accelerometer checks were made at certain intervals throughout the 13 weeks and found that there were no substantial differences between the group playing active games vs. those playing inactive games.
In an interview with Reuters Health, lead researcher Tom Baranowski remarks,“We expected that playing the video games would in fact lead to a substantial increase in physical activity in the children…Frankly we were shocked by the complete lack of difference."
Parents have blamed technology for their kids’ lack of exercise, but if they are sitting alongside them on the couch challenging them to Mario Kart, it’s understandable that kids are getting mixed messages. And while active games are certainly preferable to sitting idly on the couch and watching TV, no matter how actively a kid dances, bowls or runs in a virtual setting, there is clearly no substitute for real exercise.
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