Thursday, 1 March 2012

'Active' Video Games May Not Boost Kids' Fitness: Study


It may seem unkind but when I read this article all I could think was "Well DUH!"                                         

I have a friend whose young son returned home from the pub one night to play Wii bowling with his friends. His son became a tad overenthusiastic and managed to throw the controller into the screen of their new TV. Currently the son is getting lots of real exercise working a 2nd job to pay for the replacement TV. I can't help but think that  this whole episode would have been avoided if they had really gone bowling.


Excerpts below -the full article can be read from the link above. 

... Apparently there's no guarantee that your kids will mend their couch-potato ways if you give them a fitness video game.

A new study found no differences in physical activity over a three-month period between a group of children given "active" video games that simulated boxing and dancing, for example, and a group given "non-active" video games.

.....The scientists followed 78 children between the ages of 9 and 12, and gave each a new Wii video game console. None had owned one before. Half were invited to choose from a selection of five active fitness-focused games such as Wii Fit Plus, while the other half chose from inactive games, including Mario Kart Wii. The youngsters received needed accessories including balance boards, remote controllers and resistance bands.

Baranowski said letting the children chose their own games was important, and they were given an opportunity to select one at the start and then another new one after six weeks. "We wanted to be sure they were getting something they wanted and we weren't foisting one on them," he said.

To measure physical activity, each participant wore an accelerometer, an electronic device attached to a belt at the waist that tracks movement. The belt could be taken off only when swimming or bathing, and the children kept a journal of when they removed it. The authors said compliance was high because the youngsters wanted to keep their Wii consoles.

Baranowski said they expected that starting at week one there would be a substantial increase in physical activity in the group that played the active games, but not in the inactive game group. They expected another surge after the children chose their second new game midway through the study. No increase in physical activity occurred, though.

...."You'd think that the kids who are playing these games would be burning more calories, but I think the nature of the games is not the same as going out and interacting. It doesn't directly encourage kids to go out and exercise," said Dr. Gary Small, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has studied and written about the impact of technology on children and adults.

"Wii Fit is not made to get kids to exercise, it's to sell games. Maybe they need to design the games differently, to really get kids to move more," Small said.

Children's Hospital Colorado pediatrician Dr. Christina Suh, who has conducted research on physical activity in overweight and obese children, said it's not encouraging news in terms of using the fitness video games as a tool for tackling the increasing problem of childhood obesity......She said it's somewhat counterintuitive to recommend children get their daily physical activity from video games.

"It muddles the message pediatricians give to get outside. My feeling is if you're going to be physically active, it makes more sense to play tennis with a family member outdoors than on a video game inside. A tennis racquet and some balls would much cheaper than a video game console, too," Suh said.'
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