Active Video Games Will Give Kids More Exercise

New generation active video games give a moderate increase to children’s physical activity levels at home. Most video games are passive and not any better than watching television in terms of getting children to move around and burn energy. Children spend 40 to 90 minutes a day playing video games. In a study conducted by Australian researchers, they looked at how removing passive video games from the home or replacing them with active video games affected the activity levels of 56 children, ages 10 to 12.

The levels of physical activity did not change much during any of the three eight-week periods. Removal of these games was associated with a nearly four-minute increase of moderate to extreme physical activity per day and a nearly five-minute decrease in sitting time. During the time period when the children were allowed to play active video games, their daily activity levels increased by about three minutes and sitting time fell by just over six minutes. The differences appeared small and by themselves, are not likely to have any effect on a child’s health.

However, these slight increases in activity are very important in light of the rapidly increasing times of exposure children have to electronic gaming on computers, tablets and smartphones, as well as internet surfing and social media. Therefore making small changes across a variety of these platforms could result in a more substantial clinical impact. While the study focused on the home setting, school offers another opportunity for more active technologies such as sit or stand desks or active input electronic media as part of the lesson plans. Replacing passive games with more active versions may be easier for families to maintain than a total ban on video games.

The potential benefits of active video games demonstrate one reason why parents should not group all games into the category of unhealthy behavior. Some games have players act out very violent acts in a very realistic way. These violent games increase children’s thoughts and aggressive behaviors. Actual stabbing and punching motions replace pressing buttons in certain games. Going through the motions of the violence may have a strong influence on behaviors rather than passive gaming.

The new active games do not contain food ads and with their physical requirements do not allow for eating while playing the games. If the games do stay free of advertising, children who do play them may be at less risk for negative health effects.