Emerging research shows that exergaming — using active console video games that track player movement to control the game (e.g., Xbox-Kinect, Wii) — can increase physical activity in kids.
While technology is often blamed for increasing levels of physical inactivity and obesity, researchers are learning that innovative use of technology can allow students to burn calories while having fun.
Unfortunately, levels of physical inactivity and obesity are very high in children, with fewer than 50 percent of primary school-aged boys and fewer than 28 percent of girls meeting the minimum levels of physical activity required to maintain health.
In the study, scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers from The University of Western Australia, and Swansea University evaluated 15 children, 9-11 years of age.
Participants performed 15 minutes each of high intensity exergaming (Kinect Sports – 200m Hurdles), low intensity exergaming (Kinect Sports – Ten Pin Bowling), and a graded exercise test (treadmill).
The researchers measured energy expenditure and an individual’s vascular response to each activity using flow-mediated dilation (FMD) — a validated measure of vascular function and health in children.
They found that high intensity exergaming elicited an energy expenditure equivalent to moderate intensity exercise; low intensity exergaming resulted in an energy expenditure equivalent to low intensity exercise.
While the low intensity exergaming did not have an impact on vascular health, high intensity exergaming did significantly decrease FMD, suggesting that the latter may improve vascular health in children.
High intensity exergaming also increased heart rate and the amount of energy burned. Participants reported similar enjoyment levels with both intensities of exergaming, which indicates that children may be equally likely to continue playing the high intensity games.
According to lead investigator Louise Naylor,Ph.D., “Higher intensity exergaming may be a good form of activity for children to use to gain long-term and sustained health benefits.”
These findings also support the growing notion that high-intensity activity is beneficial for children’s health, and high-intensity exergaming should be considered a means of encouraging children to become more active.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this technological solution is that exergaming is just fun — and thus encourages participation and long-term behavioral change.