Kids burned more kilojoules while playing dance and boxing video games than they did during a sedentary car racing game, in a new UK study.
Researchers said it's not surprising children would get their body working harder while playing a game on Kinect for the Xbox 360 that requires being off the couch and jumping around. But it's still not clear whether that translates to real weight and health differences for youngsters who have those games at home.
"If the kids played the games exactly as they played them in this study and they did that for the amount of time they normally play video games, that could be very beneficial," said Jacob Barkley, an exercise science researcher from Kent State University in Ohio who wasn't involved in the study.
"I would stop short of saying, 'Well then just buy your kids the Xbox and they'll lose weight,'" he told said - because kids may opt for the less-intensive games on the system, or they may substitute outdoor physical activity for video gaming.
A good option
The new study involved 18 kids aged 11 to 15. Researchers from the University of Chester had the kids play three different Kinect games for 15 minutes each: Project Gotham Racing 4 (a sedentary game), Dance Central and Kinect Sports Boxing.
Kids wore a heart rate monitor as well as a facemask measuring oxygen consumption.
Heart rate and energy expenditure were both higher with the active games than the sedentary comparison, Michael Morris and his colleagues reported online in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
On average, kids burned calories at a rate of 90 per hour playing the racing game, 180 per hour during Dance Central and 264 per hour while virtual boxing.
That's a higher expenditure than has been shown with other active gaming systems, according to Barkley - possibly because Kinect doesn't use a controller, so it's harder for kids to sit down while playing.
Calorie expenditure during the boxing game was comparable to what a person would burn while playing volleyball or table tennis, according to Morris.
"Moderate activity is obviously very good for you," he said. But, he added, this study just provides a "snapshot" into possible benefits from the games.
Games a good option
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend kids and teens get at least one hour of physical activity each day. That can include brisk walking or running, gymnastics or team sports like basketball.
"I don't think the (Kinect) games are a good substitute for traditional physical activity," Barkley said. "I do think the games are a good option relative to a sedentary game."
Morris said he and his colleagues are now working on a longer-term study in which they give kids the games at home and track their weight and fitness for a year to see if active gaming leads to any health changes.
(Reuters Health, September 2012)
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