Childhood Obesity Prevented By Playing Video Games?

By Hilda Scott , May 17, 2013 11:52 AM EDT

New research shows that video gaming can improve the health of children. Game consoles such as Xbox-Kinect and Wii are active gaming systems that require the player to move to control the game.

These game systems allow children to participate in "exergaming" with constant movement throughout the game. Xbox-Kinect and Wii games require players to use motions such as running, jumping and dancing.

Physical inactivity and obesity among children in the United States is very high. Less than 50 percent of primary school-aged boys and 28 percent of school-aged girls meet the required amounts of physical activity to stay health.

A new study shows that popular exergaming consoles can reverse sedentary behaviors in children. Researchers from the University of Western Australia, Liverpool John Moores University, and Swansea University, led by Dr. Louise Naylor analyzed the health effects exergaming has on children.

For the study, 15 children ages 9 to 11 years old participated in 15 each minutes of high intensity exergaming (Kinect Sports 200m Hurdles), low intensity exergaming (Kinect Sports-Ten Pin Bowling), and an exercise test on the treadmill. When the exercises were complete, the researchers measured how much energy was used and the vascular response of each activity. Researchers used flow-mediated dilation (FMD), which measures vascular function and health in children.

Results showed that the energy spent during high intensity exergaming was the same as participating in moderate intensity exercise. Low intensity exergaming used the same amount of energy as low intensity exercise and had no effect on FMD. High intensity exergaming decreased FMD significantly, which suggests that it may improve vascular health in children. Increases in heart rate and the amount of energy burned were also reported and the children enjoyed the high intensity games, suggesting that they were likely to play them again. 

"Higher intensity exergaming may be a good form of activity for children to use to gain long-term and sustained health benefits," Dr. Naylor said in a press release. Findings from the study were published in the Journal of Pediatrics on May 17. 

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