Sept. 2, 2008 -- Kids who play activity-oriented video games are getting
quite a workout, a new study shows.
Video and computer gaming is a popular pastime for school-aged children, but
such activities have been wrought with criticism. Research has shown that
children who play seated video games for extended amounts of time have an
increased risk for obesity.
"Active" gaming systems may help combat this problem. Such
entertainment systems allow players to become part of the game. For example, an
activity-oriented video game might virtually place someone in a tennis match
and allow the person to swing at a ball. Body movements are necessary in order
for the game to function.
Researchers reporting in this month's issue of Archives of Pediatrics
& Adolescent Medicine have found that children who play active video
games burn four times as many calories as kids who play traditional seated
Robin R. Mellecker, BSc, and Alison M. McManus, PhD, of the Institute of
Human Performance, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, examined how a child's
heart rate and calorie expenditure changed when playing an active game using
the XaviX bowling and XaviX J-Mat gaming systems.
The study involved 18 children aged 6 to 12. Kids rested for five minutes
before the gaming session began. They started with a seated computer bowling
game, followed by an active bowling game and then an action/running game. The
kids played each game for five minutes, and rested for the same amount of time
in between the two action games.
Twiddling one's thumbs does burn some calories. Playing any type of video
game burned more calories than resting.
Adding activity to an otherwise seated video game boosted the number of
calories burned. Kids burned 0.6 more calories per minute playing active
bowling than the seated bowling game and 3.9 more calories per minute playing
on the action mat. Their heart rates were also significantly higher during the
active games than during rest. Kids displayed 20 more beats per minute during
the active bowling session and 79 more beats per minute on the XaviX J-Mat.
Study authors say their results show that the two active gaming formats
result in "meaningful increases in energy expenditure" compared to
traditional seated video games.
"Preventing weight gain requires an energy adjustment of approximately
150 kilocalories [calories] per day. The four-fold increase in energy
expenditure when playing on the XaviX J-Mat would fill the proposed energy gap,
if this game were played for 35 minutes a day," the researchers write in a
Researchers encourage additional research to determine whether active gaming
can lead to "sustainable increases in childhood physical activity.”