Staying Active with Video Games?

Originally published on Savvy Auntie.

A new study shows that adolescents who engage in active video-gaming play are able to increase their heart rates, use more oxygen, and expend more energy than they normally would with more sedentary video games (HealthDay News), suggesting that not all forms of video gaming are necessarily bad or unhealthy for our young nieces and nephews. Researchers Stephen Smallwood and colleagues at England’s University of Chester claim that active video games encourage movement and might be able to help kids increase their physical activity levels.

Ten boys and 8 girls, ages 11 to 15, were used in the small study. They each played two active video games with Kinect for Xbox 360 which implements a webcam sensor device and software technology to detect body movement. The video games, Dance Central and Kinect Sports: Boxing, were found to increase energy expenditure by 150% and 263%, respectively, above resting values. When compared with more traditional, sedentary video games, energy expenditure was 103% and 194% higher with Kinect. Both active games led to significant increases in heart rate and oxygen uptake.

In a news release for the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, the researchers state: “Although it is unlikely that active video game play can single-handedly provide the recommended amount of  physical activity for children or expend the number of calories required to prevent or reverse the obesity epidemic, it appears from the results of this study that ‘Kinect’ active game play can contribute to children’s physical activity levels and energy expenditure, at least in the short term.”

Suggestions for Aunties with video-gaming nieces and nephews:

Bad weather? Indoor play just got active!
Savvy Auntie encourages outdoor actively play whenever possible, but these active video games are a good substitute when the weather isn’t cooperating. Still, there is no substitute for fresh air and nature, so use it as the exception, not the rule.

Have them take breaks to get up and stretch during less intensive video gaming.
It can be really easy for kids to get sucked into their video games and lose track of the time they have with Auntie. Before you realize it, it’s time for your nieces and nephews to head home after they’ve been stuck on the couch, glued to the screen for the entire afternoon! Aside from setting up time constraints for video gaming, occasionally check in on the kids with a light and healthy snack so that they can give their controllers and themselves a rest before resuming the game. If the kids are using the Wii, the game will pause from time to time and remind players to take short breaks—great times for Auntie to come in with energy reinforcements like healthy meals and snacks.

Play with your nieces and nephews.
You can model a healthy and active lifestyle by simply joining in the fun! Pick out the games that are sure to get them moving, and make them your primary choices—this way, your nieces and nephews will associate certain active video games with their fun and fit Auntie and may be inspired to maintain fun and fit daily routines. To encourage physically stimulating play, make sure a majority of the available video games at Auntie’s house trend active.

Photo: Ambro
Published: October 23, 2012


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