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.”