Do Wii games encourage kids to exercise?

Summary:Do games requiring physical activity encourage exercise in children?

The Wii console, due to its extensive gesture-based controls and ability to move continually while playing a video game, enjoys success in promoting 'health boosting' and exercise-based games, from a gym workout to dancing.

However, according to a new U.S. study, these types of games may not actually encourage children to exercise or move more during the day than 'sedentary' gamers.

A team of researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas discovered that children who were given 'active' games to play on the Nintendo Wii console did no more exercise than those who were given games that are played stationary.

By engaging children through video games that required at least a moderate level of physical activity, it was hoped that it would also encourage children to want to exercise more -- in which case, the video games could become a recommended source of exercise for those who lived in neighbourhoods where it is considered unsafe for children to play outside for long periods of time, or without supervision.

The results proved disappointing to the team. Tom Baranowski and colleagues at Baylor said:

"We expected that playing the video games would in fact lead to a substantial increase in physical activity in the children. Frankly, we were shocked by the complete lack of difference."

In order to conduct the study, the researchers gave out Wii consoles to a total of 78 children. Half were given 'active' games, including Wii Sports, whereas the other half were offered sedentary options, such as Super Mario Galaxy.

The children, all of whom were between 9 and 12 years-old and above average in weight, were tracked for 13 weeks through a motion-measuring tool called an accelerometer. The team were able to harvest information concerning whether the children were sedentary or exercising -- and to what levels.

The research revealed that those with the 'active' game choices exercised no more than those given inactive options.

For both sets of children, the average time spent in either moderate or vigorous activity each day spanned between 25 and 29 minutes.

Baranowski admitted that due to the means of testing, they were unable to determine whether other factors may have influenced the results -- such as children compensating for activity through game play by exercising less through the day, or whether active games in themselves do not require as much energy as believed.

Although games may not be as good as the real thing, even a little extra movement each day may have cumulatively beneficial effects.

(via Reuters)

Image credit: The Next Web

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Topics: Mobility

About

Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

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