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E-Games May Not Sway Youths' Habitual Physical Activity

By guest blogger Gina Cairney

Experts recommend that children and teenagers get at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day, but not all schools and not all school-aged children are given the opportunity to regularly participate in physical activity.

Games like Dance Dance Revolution, or those available through the Xbox Kinect and Wii Sports, could help school-aged children meet those recommendations and are shown to have similar benefits as traditional physical education, but a new study on PLOS ONE suggests active video games, or "e-games," may not really have an effect on habitual physical activity.

Researchers looked at more than 50 studies on e-games and found that although these games were associated with an increase in energy expenditure among children and teens, there wasn't enough information to suggest whether playing these types of games helped establish long-term behavior.

Readers of this blog will know that sedentary activities, like TV watching, are associated with poor health. E-games are just one of the novel ways in which educators are trying to sneak exercise into children's daily routines. It's kind of like tricking children to eat their broccoli and carrots and peas by mashing them in with some fruit.

Sneaky, sneaky adults.

In one of the studies, a Dance Dance Revolution intervention did increase self-reported levels of physical activity, but did not increase physical activity measured objectively with an accelerometer.

Other studies showed some increase in physical activity in children who received an e-game intervention, but others showed little or no habit-forming increase in physical activity, even with the e-game intervention.

This study is the first to seek understanding on what influence e-games have on children's health. Although e-games have been shown to increase activity levels, the study also shows that such games alone may not be sufficient to get children to meet the recommended 60 minutes of activity per day, let alone help develop a sustained active lifestyle into adulthood.

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