Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Getting today’s sedentary, overweight kids off the couch can be a challenge for many parents. When the Nintendo Wii game was introduced in the U.S., we thought it would offer the chance for children to exercise while having fun. Seemed like a good idea, especially in Florida in the summertime.
However, a study by the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and published in the American Academy of Pediatrics, indicates that “active” video games do not produce the increase in physical activity that parents expected. While earlier studies show that adults and children who play video games in a laboratory setting did exercise, the Baylor team wanted to determine what happened when the games were used in actual homes, not a laboratory.
The children studied were 9 to 12 years old, had an above-average body mass index and did not already have a video game console. One group was given physically demanding (active) games and one group was given the most popular games that were played passively. Each were given a Wii and agreed to wear accelerometers to measure physical activity over the 13-week experiment.
The Baylor study found no evidence that children receiving the active games were more active than the children receiving the inactive video games.
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research also published a small-scale study of use of the Wii Fit by adults and children in homes over three months and its impact on physical activity and fitness.
There was actually a dramatic drop in daily use of the active games after the first six weeks. The Wii Fit was used an average of 22 minutes a day by everyone in the household in the first six weeks, but only four minutes a day in the second six weeks. At the end, health-related fitness measures were essentially unchanged.
Active video games might increase movement for some children, but for physical activity that brings measurable health benefits, kids still need things like real balls, real rackets and real parks.