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Interactive Exergames Can Increase Physical Activity, Burn Calories


Did you purchase an Xbox 360 Kinect, PlayStation 3 Move, or Nintendo Wii for Christmas? The good news is that digital interactive “exergames” can increase children’s physical activity levels and burn calories at levels comparable to moderate to vigorous exercise.

In a study of 39 middle-school children in Boston, Bruce Bailey PhD of Brigham Young University and Kyle McInnis ScD of the University of Massachusetts found that several of the video games tested “compared favorably with walking on a treadmill at three miles per hour”. The kids, average age 11.5, were part of a program called GoKids Boston, a youth fitness research and training center at UM.

Six exergaming systems were tested: Dance Dance Revolution, LightSpace (Bug Invasion), Nintendo Wii (Boxing), Cybex Trazer (Goalie Wars), Sportwall, and Xavix (J-Mat). The children participated in the program twice a week for 90 minutes and rotated once through each game.

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All of the games increased energy expenditure above being at rest, but certain exergames used up more energy than others. Sportwall had the highest metabolic equivalent task value, or MET. MET is used as a practical means of expressing the intensity and energy expenditure of physical activities in a way that better compares persons of different weight. A value greater than 6 equates to vigorous intensity activities while MET levels between 3 and 6 equals moderate intensity.

The MET of Sportwall equaled 7.1, versus 4.9 for walking on a treadmill at 3 mph. Xavix and LightSpace also qualified as vigorous intensity activities. The Nintendo Wii Boxing game was the only game to score lower than treadmill walking (4.2 MET), while Dance Dance Revolution scored only slightly higher (5.4 MET).

Though the study was limited because energy expenditure was only measured for 10 minutes and may have overestimated the energy cost of gaming, Drs. Bailey and McInnis conclude that "Exergaming has the potential to increase physical activity and have a favorable influence on energy balance, and may be a viable alternative to traditional fitness activities" for children of varying body mass index (BMI) levels.

If you do not already have an interactive digital gaming system, Consumer Reports offers a review of the top three – Microsoft’s Xbox, Sony’s Playstation, and Nintendo Wii – at www.consumerreports.org. When choosing games to promote physical activity, pay attention to games that best suit your child’s personality because children tend to participate in those activities that they enjoy.”

Source references:
Bailey BW, McInnis K "Energy cost of exergaming: A comparison of the energy cost of 6 forms of exergaming" Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2011; DOI:10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.15.
Sallis JF "Potential vs actual benefits of exergames" Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2011; DOI:10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.16.