One of the best and most successful of fitness programs in recent times is the National Football League’s “Play 60″ program, which uses professional football players to encourage kids to get at least an hour’s worth of physical activity in per day, through personal visits and sponsored programs.
Then there is The President’s Challenge, a long-running, federally sponsored physical fitness initiative in which kids can pick their own exercise regimens.
But despite these and other programs, many kids today act like they are chained to a video game console and, as such, are lacking any sort of physical activity (as evidenced, in part, by rising childhood obesity).
Now, however, new research indicates that kids whose parents give them “active” video games to play while they are following a general weight management program increase their moderate and vigorous activity levels. Also, the new study showed those who play active video games lost more weight than did children who only followed a weight management program.
As Reuters Health reports:
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 Minnetonka, Minnesota.
“Wouldn’t it be great if instead of beating on kids about screen time we turned screen time into a positive?” she said.
Fat loss, more activity
To conduct the study, researchers merely added to an existing weight loss program that they found to be effective for both kids and parents. They then recruited 75 overweight and obese children from Massachusetts, Texas and Rhode Island who were then randomly assigned to two groups for a 16-week period.
Both of the groups were assigned to take part in the weight management program at a local YMCA and at school, but one of the groups was also given an Xbox game console and a pair of active games to play.
Reuters Health reported that the device used was the Xbox Kinect, which — like other “active” devices such as Wii games — captures the child’s body movements in order to operate the game. If it is a baseball game, the child must swing their arms in order to make the game function; same if it is a running game or a dancing game.
The games provided to the Xbox group were Kinect Adventures! and Kinect Sports. Kids in the weight-loss-only group received the same gear and games at the end of the study.
The Xbox group’s activities were recorded using an accelerometer, which measures movement throughout the day.
‘Outcomes were very, very good’
When the study began, kids were between the ages of 8 and 12 years old and weighed between 123 and 132 pounds. Some 67 percent of the children had a body mass index (BMI) that put them in the overweight category for their age. The rest of the kids were considered obese. Reuters Health further reported:
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.
In addition, researchers also discovered that a larger percentage of kids in the active-game group were no longer considered “overweight” by the study’s end.
“Sure enough, the outcomes were very, very good,” Vojta said
The team’s findings are in line with results from a separate study in 2012 which found that about a quarter of 1,200 Canadian high school students played active video games, which translated into about an hour of exercise two days per week.
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