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Active Video Games Not as Beneficial as Previously Thought

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Scientists and fitness
professionals have spent plenty of time looking
for ways to encourage improved activity levels among children. To appeal to tech-minded youth, one possible
means for improving
fitness is active video gaming. However, a study published recently in Pediatrics (March 1, 2012; 129 [3], 636–42) suggests that this may not be as effective as previously thought.

The 13-week study included 78 kids—51%
of them boys—of varying ethnic backgrounds, aged 9–12, divided into an active game group and an inactive game group. Games were considered “active” if they required players to move while playing. Inactive games required no movement. Throughout the protocol, the children were instructed to keep track
of the amount of time they spent playing games. They were also given accelerometers to measure their exertion levels.

Unfortunately, there was no significant difference in overall activity levels between the groups. The researchers noted that although the children in the active group played more intensely while under observation, they reduced that level when they were outside the clinical setting.

But wouldn’t the active gamers log more physical activity than the non-active group in general? The authors proposed that the lack of difference between the groups might have been due to the active children compensating for the increased gaming activity by being less active at other times of the day.
The authors’ conclusion: “These results provide no reason to believe that simply acquiring an active video game under naturalistic circumstances provides a public health benefit to children.”

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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