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Children's Health

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Active Video Games Help Kids Burn Calories

Study Shows Kids With the Highest BMIs Enjoy ‘Exergames’ the Most

Exergames and Kids With High BMIs continued...

Previous studies have shown that active video games can help kids increase their physical activity, but experts who reviewed the study for WebMD noted that this one was one of the first to look at how hard kids are working when they play.

“One thing that was unique about their study that I haven’t seen in other studies was metabolic measurement,” Katz says, "because you’re actually measuring intensity, which is nice because people talk about it, but now you can actually measure whether it’s moderate to extensive." Katz has studied the effect of exergames on kids, but was not involved in the current study.

The study was also one of the first to measure enjoyment of exergaming, experts say.

“People, in general, tend to participate in activities they enjoy. That’s true of adults, but it’s probably more true of children,” says study researcher Bruce W. Bailey, PhD, assistant professor of exercise and sports science at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Indoor vs. Outdoor Play

Though exergames have the potential to get kids up and moving, they can pose a quandary for parents.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting the amount of time kids spend in front of a TV or computer screen to two hours daily.

But if kids are up and moving while they’re watching, does that count? And is it OK to let kids spend a nice day indoors as long as they’re playing Dance Dance Revolution?

“These are not a substitute for being outside, riding a bike, being on the soccer field,” says Kevin R. Short, PhD, assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

“If you’re going to let your kids watch TV or be on the computer for two hours, substituting at least a half hour or one hour of this time of active gaming would be a successful way to reduce the amount of sedentary time that they have,” says Short, who published a study on exergaming in Pediatrics in 2009.

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