‘Exergames’ don’t cure young couch potatoes
Tennis was one of the games in the Wii Sports software that came right in the box with the console. This was the progenitor of “exergames,” video games that led to hopes that fitness could turn into irresistible fun.
But exergames turn out to be much digital ado about nothing, at least as far as measurable health benefits for children. “Active” video games distributed to homes with children do not produce the increase in physical activity that naïve parents (like me) expected. That’s according to a study undertaken by the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and published early this year in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Previous studies have shown that adults and children who play active video games, when encouraged in an ideal laboratory setting, engage in moderate, even vigorous physical activity briefly. The Baylor team wanted to determine what happened when the games were used not in a laboratory, but in actual homes.
The participants in this study were children 9 to 12 years old who had a body mass index above the median and whose households did not already have a video game console. Each was given a Wii. Half were randomly assigned
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