In a study recently published in Pediatrics, researchers say that “active” video games may not boost children’s physical activity as much as some people believe. The study, entitled “Impact of an Active Video Game on Healthy Children’s Physical Activity”, published online February 27th, claims that although it may seem that children are “exercising” while playing these games, their physical activity was not greater than children who play interactive games.

To determine their findings, the authors recruited 87 kids, between the ages of 9 and 12, who were each given 2 video games to play – either 2 inactive games, or 2 active games. The active games that were given to the kids included, “Wii Fit Plus” and “Dance Dance Revolution”, and the inactive games were “Mario Kart Wii” and “Madden NFL 10.”

An active video game is described as one in which the kids actually do physical activity while playing, such as, dancing, interactive bowling, boxing, tennis or baseball. Inactive video games are those that do not require physical activity to play.

During the study, the children kept track of their playing time, and over a 12 week period, their physical activity levels were monitored by a device used to measure exertion and acceleration called an accelerometer.

The device showed that the children who played the active games did not show any higher physical activity levels than the ones who played the inactive games. Even though the kids who played the active games had higher physical activity levels in the “laboratory setting”, the authors say this has nothing to do with activity levels on a normal, every day basis.

They researchers believe that because of the physical activity they were performing while playing the games, the children were less likely to be active at other times, such as, playing outside with their friends, or joining a sports team, because they would rather be inside playing video games.

The authors note that when the kids were given detailed instructions on how to use the video games, their physical activity did increase, which the authors believe could be helpful in terms of set-time interventions.

Written By Christine Kearney