Exergaming (active videogaming) may provide an alternative type of exercise to prevent stationary behavior in children, a new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics claims.

Obesity and physical inactivity levels in kids are significantly high – with less than 50% of primary school-aged boys and under 28% of girls reaching the minimum levels of exercise necessary to maintain proper health.

Exergaming is using active console video games that track player movement to play the game, for example Xbox-Kinect, Wii. The current study aimed to observe the effects of exergaming on children.

A team of researchers from The University of Western Australia, Liverpool John Moores University, and Swansea University, led by Dr. Louise Naylor, examined 15 children ranging in age from 9 to 11 years. Each child took part in 15 minutes of each of the following:

  • high intensity exergaming (Kinect Sports – 200m hurdles)
  • low intensity exergaming (Kinetct Sports – Ten Pin Bowing)
  • graded exercise test (treadmill)

The investigators calculated energy expenditure and vascular response to each activity using flow-mediated dilation (FMD) – a validated calculation of vascular function and health in kids.

They revealed that high intensity exergaming caused an energy expenditure equal to moderate intensity exercise, while low intensity exergaming was equivalent to low intensity exercise.

Also, the low intensity exergaming did not have an influence of FMD, while high intensity exergaming greatly reduced FMD – pointing to the latter and its ability to better vascular health in children.

High intensity exergaming additionally increased heart rate and the amount of energy burned. Participants documented similar amusement levels with both intensities of exergaming – suggesting that kids may be equally as likely to keep playing the high intensity games.

An earlier study published in Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine suggested that children who play active video games burn over four times as many calories as when they are playing an inactive game. Also, they pointed out the heart rate increases significantly.

Dr. Naylor said, “Higher intensity exergaming may be a good form of activity for children to use to gain long-term and sustained health benefits.”

The outcomes of the current study support the growing idea that high intensity activity is advantageous for children’s health. Also, high intensity exergaming may be included as a means of pushing children to become more active.

A study in Pediatrics offers an opposite view, suggesting that physical activity levels in children are unchanged by active video games. The study claimed that although it may seem like children are achieving more exercise, they do not reach a physical activity level higher than those reached in interactive video games.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald