Kids who played the active video games also lost
more weight than children who only followed the weight management
Traditionally, studies have examined what harms may come from
children spending long hours sitting and playing video games.
"We thought — if you received active games — maybe we can turn this
lemon into lemonade," Dr. Deneen Vojta told Reuters Health.
She is the study's senior author from the UnitedHealth Center for
Health Reform and Modernization at the UnitedHealth Group in
"Wouldn't it be great if instead of beating on kids about screen
time we turned screen time into a positive?" she said.
For the new study, the researchers built upon an existing weight
loss program for children and their parents that had been found to
They recruited 75 overweight and obese Massachusetts, Rhode Island
and Texas children who were randomized to one of two groups for a
16-week study period.
Both groups took part in the weight management program at local
YMCAs and schools, but one group also received an Xbox game console
and two active games.
The Xbox Kinect device captures the child's body movements to
operate the game. The games given to the kids in the active gaming
group were Kinect Adventures! and Kinect Sports. (Children in the
weight-loss program-only group received the same equipment and games
at the end of the study).
All the children's activity were recorded using an accelerometer,
which measures movement, during the day.
At the start of the study, the children were between the ages of 8
and 12 years old and weighed between 123 and 132 pounds (lbs). About
67 percent of the kids had a body mass index (BMI), a measure of
weight relative to height, that put them in the overweight category
for their age groups. The rest of the children were in the obese
The researchers found that children in the group that received the
active games added about seven minutes of moderate to vigorous
activity and about three minutes of vigorous activity to their daily
routines over the 16 weeks.
Meanwhile children in the group that only took part in the weight
loss program didn't experience a significant change in their
activity levels or duration.
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Although the difference between groups appears to be small, the
researchers write in JAMA Pediatrics, the added activity among the
game-users group is equivalent to about 4 lbs of fat lost over a
They also found a greater percentage of children in the
active-gaming group were no longer in the overweight category by the
end of the study. The percentage overweight had dropped a little
over 9 percent in the active gaming group versus just under 4
percent in the comparison group.
"Sure enough, the outcomes were very, very good," Vojta said.
The authors note in the paper, however, that they cannot be sure the
children sustained their weight loss and increased activity beyond
the 16 weeks.
The findings are in keeping with results from a 2012 study that
found about one-quarter of 1,200 Canadian high school students
played active games. That translated to about an hour of exercise
two days a week.
Still, other studies have suggested that active games don't help
kids meet the daily recommended dose of physical activity. (see
Reuters Health story of February 27, 2012 here: http://reut.rs/1fAOAMj)
Vojta said they are currently working on incorporating the weight
management program into a home-based program, for instance, one that
would be administered through the game console.
"In many ways, these home-based active gaming solutions solve two
problems," she said.
The games give children and adults the ability to build up a
tolerance to exercise in their own homes, she said, and they give
people who live in rough or high-crime areas an opportunity to
Pediatrics, online March 3, 2014.
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