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Allison is a second-year Masters in Public Health student in the department of Health Behavior and Health Education at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

boy and a girl playing video game

Active gaming?

A new study published in Pediatrics found that giving kids an “active” videogame that involves moving around during play may not actually increase levels of physical activity.

Some past research has shown that active videogames may increase physical activity; however, these studies may have included explicit instructions about using the videogames and/or other characteristics that affected the context in which the game was played. Under normal circumstances, the new research shows that merely having an active videogame may not increase levels of physical activity, and/or may not cause exercise intensity levels to rise to a meaningful level.

In the current study, researchers gave children a Wii with either two active or two non-active videogames. The kids were found to have similar levels of physical activity at the end of the study, even when controlling for overweight status and neighborhood safety (for ease of playing outside).

More research is certainly needed to test the impact of these types of games in natural environments. It would also be useful to know what may mediate the effects of having such videogames available, such as individual characteristics of kids that may make them more or less likely to make maximal use of these games. Alternatively, it may be that factors within the home environment or school routine may affect times and types of games played. Understanding under what conditions and for whom these active games may be most helpful in promoting physical activity is a challenge for researchers in the future.

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