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Public Health Benefit of Active Video Games Is Not Clear-Cut

2/27/2012  

Simply giving a child an "active" video game will not necessarily increase his or her physical activity, according to the study, "Impact of an Active Video Game on Healthy Children's Physical Activity," in the March 2012 Pediatrics (published online Feb. 27). Researchers gave 87 children a game console, and either two "active" video games or two "inactive" games. Examples of active games include those in which players dance or use their bodies to simulate bowling. The children kept a log of their play times, and their activity levels were measured over a 12-week period using an accelerometer (a device that measures acceleration and exertion). The children who were given active games were not more physically active than those given inactive games.

The authors note that children have played active video games with moderate to vigorous physical activity in laboratory settings, but that did not translate to "real life." They theorize that the children either did not elect to play the active games at the same level of intensity as in the lab, or they chose to be less active at other times of the day. However, providing explicit instructions to use the active games appeared to lead to increased physical activity, which could make the games useful as part of interventions that prescribe using the games for a set amount of time.  

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (www.aap.org)