Children burn more than four times as many calories per minute playing an active video game than playing a seated game, and their heart rate is also significantly higher with the active game, according to a new report.
Video and computer gaming is rapidly becoming the preferred leisure-time activity for school-aged children, according to background information in the article. In the last decade, computer and video game sales have increased by $5.2 billion and more than 83 percent of U.S. children age 8 to 18 have video game players in their bedrooms. At the same time, obesity rates continue to increase worldwide; sedentary activities such as seated game-playing may contribute.
The gaming industry has begun producing active "extertainment" gaming systems, the authors note. "A recent active gaming concept that allows players to experience various activities (e.g., bowling, fishing, tennis, golf) in a virtual world is the XaviX gaming system (SSD Company Ltd., Shiga, Japan)," the authors write. "In addition to the exercise gaming modalities, the XaviX system includes a gaming mat (XaviX J-Mat) that allows participants to travel the streets of Hong Kong at a walk or a run, avoiding obstacles and stamping out ninjas."
Robin R. Mellecker, B.Sc., and Alison M. McManus, Ph.D., of the Institute of Human Performance, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, measured heart rate and energy (calorie) expenditure in 18 children age 6 to 12 (average age 9.6) during a 25-minute gaming protocol. Participants rested for five minutes, then played a seated computer bowling game, an active bowling game and the action/running game for five minutes each, with five minutes of rest between active games.
Compared with resting, children burned 39 percent more calories per minute playing a seated game, 98 percent more playing active bowling and 451 percent more during the action/running game. When compared with seated gaming, they burned 0.6 more calories playing active bowling and 3.9 more calories per minute playing on the action mat. "This translates into a more than four-fold increase in energy expenditure for the XaviX J-Mat game," the authors write. "Preventing weight gain requires an energy adjustment of approximately 150 kilocalories [calories] per day. The four-fold increase in energy expenditure when playing on the XaviX J-Mat would fill the proposed energy gap, if this game were played for 35 minutes a day."
In addition, participants' heart rate was significantly higher during either active game than during rest (20 more beats per minute for active bowling and 79 more beats per minute for the action/running game), and also was higher during the action mat gaming than during seated gaming.
"Our data demonstrate that the two active gaming formats result in meaningful increases in energy expenditure compared with the seated screen environment," the authors conclude. "The next step is to test whether active gaming interventions can provide sustainable increases in childhood physical activity."
This study was funded by the University of Hong Kong Research Council Strategic Research Theme Public Health.
Editorial: Active Gaming May Be Part of the Solution to Obesity Crisis
The study "findings show that kids who play the new generation of video games requiring physical activity expend energy at levels that could help to prevent overweight," writes Russell R. Pate, Ph.D., of the University of South Carolina School of Public Health, Columbia, in an accompanying editorial.
"This observation is important because electronic entertainment is not going away. So, if we want to promote physical activity in the context of contemporary society, we will have to fight fire with fire. Physically active video gaming may be part of the antidote to the poisonous growth of sedentary entertainment."
"Some previous research has shown that reducing sedentary entertainment can beneficially affect body composition in youth, so there is support for the efficacy of this approach," Dr. Pate concludes. "What is lacking is a clear sense of how we can take this strategy to the population level. Substituting physically active video gaming for sedentary gaming is an attractive option. The economics of this strategy could work at the societal level. If that proves to be true, the video gaming industry and the kids themselves will solve the problem. We ought to find out if they will."
- Mellecker et al. Energy Expenditure and Cardiovascular Responses to Seated and Active Gaming in Children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 2008; 162 (9): 886 DOI: 10.1001/archpedi.162.9.886
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