Wii, DDR 'valuable' for child fitness - Study

Oklahoma researchers deem Wii Sports, DDR a "safe, fun, and valuable" alternative to treadmills for increasingly overweight generation of youth.

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A study released yesterday in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal Pediatrics notes that about 32 percent of American children are overweight due to sedentary activities, like sitting in front of a television while playing video games. However, the same report finds that games may also be part of a solution to childhood obesity.

In the experiments, heart rates nearly doubled while boxing on the Wii, compared to resting.
In the experiments, heart rates nearly doubled while boxing on the Wii, compared to resting.

Led by Diana Graf of the University of Oklahoma Health Services Center, the study claims to be the "first objective measurement" of the impact of the Wii on kids' health. It found that children ages 10 to 13 can get more exercise out of Wii Sports' boxing and the PlayStation 2's Dance Dance Revolution than they can out of walking on a treadmill. Wii Sports' bowling was also included in the study and offered less dramatic benefits, but it still beat sedentary gameplay. Given the results, the researchers recommend vigorous gameplay as a valuable way for children to stay fit.

"Energy expenditure during active video game play is comparable to moderate-intensity walking," the paper concludes. "Thus, for children who spend considerable time playing electronic screen games for entertainment, physically active games seem to be a safe, fun, and valuable means of promoting energy expenditure."

To conduct the study, researchers observed 14 boys and 9 girls ages 10 to 13 as they exercised using treadmills and game consoles. Subjects occupied a wide spectrum of body compositions, ranging from underweight to obese, and were measured based on energy expenditure, step rate, and heart rate.

A diverse range of children could be exposed to game-based exercise, with 64 percent of kids gaming on consoles and portable devices according to the NPD Group. The average age a child first uses a video game system is 6.5 years old, a group analyst told GameSpot in June.

Console games may also promote good behavior for children, with three recent studies concluding that children who play cooperative video games are more likely to be altruistic. However, a 2007 Iowa State University report claims violent games instill aggressive behavior.

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