Children given video games that simulate activities such as boxing and dancing are no more physically active overall than children who play nonactive video games, says a HealthDay article based on a study published this month in Pediatrics.
Researchers followed 78 children ages 9-12 who had never owned a Wii video game console. Half of the children choose from a selection of 5 active fitness-focused games. The other half chose from inactive games. After 6 weeks they were given an opportunity to choose another game. The children received needed accessories including balance boards, remote controllers, and resistance bands. Each child wore an accelerometer to measure physical activity. The belt could be taken off only when swimming or bathing, and the children kept a journal of when they removed it.
Lead author Tom Baranowski, PhD, told HealthDay that the investigators expected to see a "substantial increase in physical activity in the group that played the active games, but not in the inactive game group" starting in the first week. They expected another surge when the children chose their second game.
"But we found there was no difference in the level of the activity between the treatment and control groups. What we detected at baseline, before playing active video games, was exactly the same in weeks 1, 6, 7, and 12," Baranowski said.
Pediatrician Christina Suh, MD, who was not part of the research team, said, "The take-home message is that on a population basis, it looks like using active video games is not an effective way of getting kids to be more active. In other words, if someone thinks of passing out Wii fitness consoles to kids in a public school district, for example, it probably wouldn't be effective in terms of its impact on public health."
Exercise prescription for children needs to individualized, Suh added. "The key is figuring out what's really fun for that child."
Full text of the article is available through Pediatrics.