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Catherine Holecko

Active games not a cure-all

By February 27, 2012

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While active video games (sometimes called "exergames," like those made for the motion-controlled Nintendo Wii or Xbox Kinect) have been shown to improve kids' physical activity in laboratory experiments, it is harder to know how much effect they have in "naturalistic settings"--in other words, "out in the real world."

So researchers at Baylor College of Medicine devised an experiment. They gave about 75 kids, ages 9 to 12 and at risk for obesity, a new-to-them Wii console, peripherals, and a choice of a few games. Some kids received active games, such as EA Sports Active or Wii Fit Plus. Others received popular, but inactive games, including Mario Kart and Super Mario Galaxy.

The results showed that even though kids with active games enjoyed playing them, they were no more physically active over a 12-weeks period than kids with inactive games. "Simply acquiring a new active video game does not automatically lead to increased" activity, the authors wrote. However, "providing explicit instructions to use the active video game" does appear to boost activity levels. The study was published online today in the journal Pediatrics.

If your family has a favorite active video game, please share a review!

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