Quick Study: Yes, Active Video Games Count as Exercise


The study: Active video games that get kids dancing and boxing may provide significant cardiovascular benefits and calorie burn. A study published online today in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine noted the physiological changes in 18 boys and girls aged 11 to 15. The children played two Kinect games: Dance Central and Kinect Sports Boxing as well as sedentary video games.

During the Dance Central game energy expenditure increased 150 percent over resting rates, and during the boxing game it went up 263 percent. Compared to passive video gaming, the rates were 103 percent and 194 percent higher, respectively. Researchers also saw improvements during the active games in heart rate and peak oxygen uptake, both markers for cardiovascular health.

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What we already know: Exercise physiologists have had high hopes for active video games ever since they came on the market, believing they might be a great way to get sedentary kids to move. With childhood obesity rates at alarming levels, practically anything that encourages exercise is welcome. Early games however, promoted little activity, and controllers were cumbersome and got in the way.

However, as games evolved they allowed kids to really step it up. A 2011 study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine journal found that games such as Dance Dance Revolution and Sportwall helped kids burn more calories compared to walking on a treadmill at 3 miles an hour. The advent of controller-less Kinect games (the system uses a webcam-style sensor) allows players to move more freely.

What this means for you: If you want to get your couch-loving kids to move, you might try giving them what they already love: video games. Make sure they’re games that encourage moderate to vigorous exercise—you could even try them yourself.

The study authors wrote that while the results of these games were good, there’s no data to tell if children will still use them several months or even a year down the road. Even if they are, it’s a good idea to introduce kids to different types of age-appropriate games and workouts that train various muscles and stave off boredom. 

Do you think active video games are a good way for kids to get exercise? Let us know in the comments.

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Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal, and has gotten in a boxing ring. Email Jeannine | TakePart.com

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