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Active Video Games Found to Benefit Youths' Weight, Physical Activity

When integrated into a pediatric weight-management program, active video games have a positive effect on the amount of physical activity and weight of overweight and obese children, finds a study published online Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

For the study, researchers separated 75 overweight or obese children (41 girls and 34 boys) between the ages of 8 and 12 into two groups. One group participated in the JOIN for ME pediatric weight-management program alone, while the other had active video gaming incorporated into the JOIN for ME program. The researchers sought to determine whether active video gaming had any effect on the daily amount of moderate-to-vigorous activity (MVPA), vigorous physical activity (VPA), and weight of the children in the latter group.

Fifteen males and 19 females participated in the active-video-game group, while 19 males and 22 females participated in the JOIN for ME program alone. The active-video-game group averaged 25.3 minutes of MVPA and 4.4 minutes of VPA at the start of the study, while the non-video-game group averaged 26.9 minutes of MVPA and 4.9 minutes of VPA. The video-game group began the study just under 67 percent greater than the median body-mass-index for age and sex, while the non-video-game group clocked in at 62.3 percent greater than the median BMI.

Relative to their baseline MVPA at the start of the 16-week program, those in the video-game group significantly increased their MVPA halfway through the program and at the end of the program. For those in the non-video-game group, their MVPA declined at the eight-week mark before rebounding slightly by the 16-week mark. However, they were still less active at the end of the 16-week period than they were at the start of the study.

Well and Good

The same was true in terms of VPA, respectively. The video-game group jumped from 4.4 minutes of daily VPA to 7.3 by the end of the 16-week period, while the non-video-game group slightly declined in terms of VPA, going from 4.9 at the start of the study to 4.5 at the end.

"Even small changes in physical activity such as those observed in the current study, when combined with modest reductions in energy intake, have important implications for long-term energy balance," the authors wrote.

Both groups experienced drops in terms of their median BMI, but the video-game group saw greater declines. The mean weight loss in the video-game group was 0.85 kilograms (roughly 1.9 pounds), compared to 0.5 kilograms (roughly 1.1 pounds) for the non-video-game group.

Previous research has explored the role that active video games can play in combating youth obesity, but this JAMA Pediatrics study is the first to draw concrete conclusions about how such games can contribute to a pediatric-weight-management program. Active video games alone may not be enough to sway youths' physical-activity habits, but in the context of a larger weight-management program, such games can seemingly contribute to a reduction of weight and an increase in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.

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