Significant buzz has sparked increased interest in exergaming as a physical activity intervention, but researchers are not convinced that it meets traditional exercise standards. Tools such as the Nintendo Wii—with boxing, tennis and bowling simulations, as well as dance programs—have recently been tested by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS).
According to a March press release, exergames are effective for increasing physical activity among youngsters. However, caloric expenditure is not high enough to yield significant results. Colleen Greene, MA, wellness coordinator for the health promotion division of UMHS, states that “real calories can be burned during virtual gaming, although some studies have recently shown that it may be 60–70 calories an hour. This is nowhere near what an actual game or sport should be, which is three to four times that amount.”
While exergames may not elicit significant caloric expenditure or make vast health improvements, these programs can still be useful in motivating sedentary kids to increase their weekly activity, Greene concedes. “It’s a place to start,” she says. “Kids can have fun doing it; they can feel better about actually trying the sport or activity.”