‘Active’ video games may not spur much activity after all

    New research suggests that active video games, such as “Wii Sports” or “Dance Dance Revolution,” don’t actually get kids up and moving any more than traditional video games.

    Baylor School of Medicine professor Tom Baranowski said he has two theories. One is that kids manage to play active games rather inactively.

    “Rather than play the game moving one’s full body, it’s possible to manipulate the control sticks with your hands and wrists and not really move your body and getting physical activity,” Baranowski said.

    The other hypothesis is that physical activity while playing games replaces, rather than supplements, other exercise.

    Baranowski and his team gave Wii consoles to kids aged 9 to 12. Half of them got active games and half of them got more traditional ones, such as “Mario Kart.”

    Using an accelerometer to measure trunk movement, researchers found no difference in physical activity between the two groups during the five-week study period.

    Dr. Dan Taylor, a pediatrician at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, said he used to recommend active video games to kids who live in neighborhoods where it is unsafe to play outside.

    “What we have tried to do in the past is give them options of things they can do in their home to stay active, and these active video games were one of the suggestions we would tell families a lot,” Taylor said.

    Taylor called the results disappointing, especially for an already at-risk population.

    “I cannot, after reading this, recommend that parents actually go and purchase an active video game for their kids,” Taylor said.

    Previous research has shown that activity seems to increase if kids are explicitly directed to use active video games, rather than just being given them as an option.

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