Active video games don't, erm, make kids active

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Giving children active video games does nothing to increase the amount of exercise they get, new research has shown.

"Simply having active video games available in the store or at home will not by itself contribute to increased physical activity," says Dr Tom Baranowski, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.

He and his team followed 78 children between nine and 12 years of age, who were given Nintendo Wii consoles after their physical activity had been measured for seven days with an accelerometer.

Children were asked to pick one of five active video games in the first and seventh weeks of the study, while a control group was asked to choose inactive games.

However, using the accelerometer, the researchers found no difference in physical activity levels between the two groups.

"It's not clear whether those in the study group were more active as a result of the video games but compensated by being less active later in the day, or if they found a way to manipulate the instruments to minimize the amount of physical activity," says Baranowski.

"It doesn't appear that there's any public health value to having active video games available in stores – simply having those active video games available on the shelf or at home doesn't automatically lead to increased levels of physical activity in children."

He's now planning to repeat the experiments with other games consoles to see if their players stay little couch potatoes too.