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Video Games Improve Heart Rates

Researcher Viki Penpraze, a PhD candidate and instructor at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, conducted a similar study, comparing two active games to a handheld game and watching a Simpsons DVD. Participants included 13 children, all around the age of 10.

When the children watched a DVD or played the traditional hand-control video game, they didn't burn off any more calories than they would by reading a book, she says.

But it was a different story when they played Dance Mat Mania and Eye Toy Boxing, where players simulate boxers.

Their heart rates jumped from 80 to up to 160 beats per minutes, the equivalent of brisk walking or even jogging. And they burned two to three times as many calories as during the sedentary activities.

Not All Games Equal

A third study from the Netherlands suggests that not all active games are created equal.

The research team studied six gaming systems: Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Tennis, Eye Toy Beach Volleyball, Xerbike, Lasersquash, and Apartgame.

Results showed that kids didn't burn as many calories when playing Wii Tennis and Eye Toy Beach Volleyball as when playing the other games.

Nevertheless, "any active game is going to be better for your child than a handheld one," says researcher Sanne de Vries, MS, of TNO Prevention and Health in Leiden.

Not a Substitute for "Real" Sports

Commenting on the research, Edward J. Mendelsohn, MD, says, "There's no question that these newer, active video games help to burn calories."

Mendelsohn, an attending physiatrist at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York, says that after a few rounds of Wii Boxing with his 7-year-old son, he often breaks into a sweat.

"Nothing replaces being outside and engaging in active sports with your friends," he tells WebMD. "But if it's raining, this is a fun, easy way to incorporate some fitness into your kids' lives."

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