Study: Active video games can’t replace real activity

January 9, 2013 No Comments »
Study: Active video games can’t replace real activity

If you have thought about buying an exercise video game to get your kids physically active, you may want to think again.

Based on a recent survey of 1,367 research papers into the relative merits of active video games, Active Healthy Kids Canada (AHKC) has officially recommended that parents should not use them as a strategy to get their kids physically active.

AHKC is an advocacy group that works to increase support for quality, accessible and enjoyable physical activity for Canadian kids. Each year, AHKC releases the Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, including figures and statistics that describe the current state of physical activity among Canadian children and youth.

AHKC developed their statement on active video games in response to regular queries about the value of game consoles such as Wii and Kinect. To establish their position, AHKC partnered with the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) to review several years of research.

From their review, AHKC determined that playing active video games doesn’t lead to increased overall daily physical activity levels among children. And while active video games may raise kids’ heart rates, they don’t significantly help kids to achieve the 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity they need each day according to Canadian guidelines.

Active video games also don’t provide the fresh air, vitamin D, connection with nature and social interactions that come with outdoor active play. These are important points that are often overlooked in the discussion around active video games.

AHKC offered a few qualified positives:

  • Active video games are a good way to break up sedentary time, like sitting on the couch, but they’re not as good as playing real sports or activities.
  • It’s okay to enjoy playing active video games with your kids, and it’s fine to let them play with friends for occasional fun, but don’t imagine that an active video game replaces real physical activity.
  • If you are prepared to spend money on active video games for exercise, it might be better to spend your money on skipping ropes, balls, ice skates or other sporting equipment instead.
  • In kids with developmental delays, movement challenges or injuries, active video games can be used to help teach motor skills, improve movement and rehabilitate.

Parents and educators can learn more about the annual AHKC Report Card and the AHKC position on active video games by visiting the AHKC website. AHKC has also posted their position on active video games as a slide presentation on YouTube, which you can watch below.

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