Pediatric researchers were surprised recently by a study showing that motion-sensor video games have little to no effect on the activity levels of the kids who play them. Surprised? Is it folly to look to video games to trick sedentary kids into more activity?
Video games like “Wii Sports” may not be the saviors parents hoped they would be for their sedentary video game-obsessed kids. Pediatric researchers were surprised recently by the results of a study showing that active video games have little to no effect on the activity levels of the kids who play them.
A team from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, gave 78 overweight 9- to 12-year-old kids Wii games and measured their daily activity levels with accelerometers. The devices allowed the researchers to determine levels of activity among their subjects: zero-to-light activity, and moderate-to-vigorous exercise.
Half got sportive on-your-feet games, and half got sit-down thumbs-only games. The researchers expected to see more activity among the kids with the active games than those with the sedentary games, but they found no such spike in their results.
Previous laboratory studies have shown more active games to lead to more physical activity. In this experiment, however, researchers mimicked a more real-world situation: no instructions from scientists, no expectations; just play at home like you normally would.
The study doesn’t suggest kids are worse off for playing the more active games, but it shows that “Dance Dance Revolution” and “EA Sports Active” are no substitutes for a jump rope and lower-case sports.
Indoor play alternatives can be important for kids who live in bad neighborhoods. And with so many kids (and adults) already addicted to increasingly engaging video games, it would be nice to think some of that screen time could be used to some health benefit. Driving to the YMCA may be looking more attractive now.
Do the results surprise you? Does this study suggest game time should be carefully restricted for kids? Or do you hold out hope that video games might yet be used to entice kids into exercise?