Video exercise games give kids a workout

March 25, 2011

Children who participate in interactive video or electronic exercise games (exergames) get a workout that is comparable to or better than walking on a treadmill, according to a small study conducted at GoKids Boston, a youth fitness research and training center.

Children who participate in interactive video or electronic exercise games (exergames) get a workout that is comparable to or better than walking on a treadmill, according to a small study conducted at GoKids Boston, a youth fitness research and training center. Study results were published online in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Researchers from Brigham Young University and the University of Massachusetts studied 39 healthy boys and girls (mean age, 11.5 years) with different body mass indexes (BMIs) to examine how much energy they expended during 6 exergames and while walking on a treadmill at 3 miles per hour. Exergames included DanceDanceRevolution, Lightspace (Bug Invasion), Nintendo Wii (Boxing), Cybex Trazer (Goalie Wars), Sportwall, and XaviX (J-Mat). Energy expenditure was measured using the CosMed K4B2 portable metabolic cart.

All the exergames increased energy expenditure above resting levels, with no between-group differences among normal weight (BMI

The study also evaluated how the children enjoyed the exergames. Children tend to participate in physical activity that they enjoy, according to the researchers. The boys appeared to enjoy exergames more than the girls. The boys liked Wii Boxing and XaviX J-Mat more than the girls and the girls enjoyed DanceDanceRevolution more than the boys. Boys and girls similarly enjoyed Cybex Trazer, Lightspace, Sportwall, and walking on a treadmill. Interestingly, children with higher BMIs enjoyed exergames more than children with lower BMIs.

“Although exergaming is most likely not the solution to the epidemic of reduced physical activity in children, it appears to be a potentially innovative strategy that can be used to reduce sedentary time, increase adherence to exercise programs, and promote enjoyment of physical activity,” concluded the researchers. “This may be especially important for at-risk populations, specifically children who carry excess body weight.”

Bailey BW, McInnis K. Energy cost of exergaming: a comparison of the energy cost of 6 forms of exergaming. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011. Epub ahead of print.