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Active Video Games Help Kids Burn Calories

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

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.

Other experts agree.

“Spending time outdoors is the strongest correlate of physical activity among pre-school aged children, although this topic has not been well-studied with adolescents,” writes James F. Sallis, PhD, a psychologist at San Diego State University, in an editorial on the study.

And experts note that kids can be fickle and that their interest in exergames may wane over time, another reason why it’s probably not a good idea to substitute Wii soccer for the real thing.

“Active video games that require player movement should be thought of as a way to complement a whole menu of choices to get kids active,” says McInnis.

“The key is to help parents think of exergames as an alternative that offers variety rather than being a replacement for other forms of physical activity.”


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