Last week the results of a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics disproved the belief held by many parents that playing “active” video games like Wii Fit and Dance Dance Revolution could increase their kids’ activity levels. However, before you throw away your Wii Fit systems and go back to the drawing board, let’s take a look at the study to determine whether video game fitness really is too good to be true.
Here is a quick recap of the study:
Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX gave Wii consoles to 78 kids (ages 9-12 and above average weight).
Half the kids were given their choice of two “active” games (e.g. Wii Sports) and the other half were given their choice of two “inactive” games (e.g. Super Mario Galaxy).
Kids’ activity levels were measured for 13 weeks using an accelerometer (a motion-measuring device) worn on the belt.
Accelerometer logs showed that throughout the study period, kids with the active games didn’t get any more exercise than those given inactive video games, with both ranging between 25-29 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity each day.
Initial responses from researchers, doctors, and lay readers have noted the following issues with the study methods and conclusions:
Accelerometers have been shown to monitor activity accurately, however, the location of the accelerometer can impact what movement is actually recorded. For example, an accelerometer on a kid’s belt may not be able to pick up all of the motion generated by the upper body in a boxing game.
Actual game time logged was not recorded.
Other “active” game systems such as “Kinect” involve more full-body interaction than the Wii.
Fitness games aren’t interesting enough to hold a kid’s attention.
So maybe kids’ playing time just needs closer monitoring, or kids need a different game system, or to play different games. But would that really make a difference in the results? Perhaps the problem lies in the expectation that playing an active game would make a child more active.
Kids need help developing a healthy, fit lifestyle. Giving a kid a Wii remote is not going to promote a lifestyle change, and I would argue that just giving a kid a soccer ball or a pair of tap shoes won’t do it either.
Most kids need a little encouragement and coaching from family and friends to get active. Team sports, dance classes, and playtime (riding bikes, skating, playing tag, etc.) are fun activities that incorporate interactivity. Creating opportunities for interactivity with parents, siblings, and friends is one of the best ways to guarantee that kids, and families as a whole, are reaching the recommended levels of daily activity.
In other words, I wonder if a family Dance Dance Revolution tournament would be more likely to turn into a Dance Dance Marathon?
Courtesy of wii.gamezone.com
What do you think? Can video games still be part of the solution to keep kids healthy? What is the best way to encourage kids to develop a healthy lifestyle?