A study at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Centre says that playing active video games, like the Nintendo Wii, is equally beneficial for children as moderate exercise.
Although paediatricians do not recommend children to stop playing outside or exercising, the research has found that active video games offer a great alternative to moderate exercise for many children of today's generation who are sedentary and at high risk for obesity and diabetes.
"These exer-games are no substitute for 'real' sports activities, but if kids play them as designed and stay engaged, they can burn several calories per hour above their sedentary level.
We view any increase in energy expenditure (calories burned) as a good thing, especially in our overly-sedentary society," said Dr. Kevin Short, principal investigator on the project.
For the study, the researchers measured the heart rate, energy expenditure and self-reported exertion in children between ages 10-13 while they watched television, played active video games and walked on the treadmill at three different speeds.
It was found that the calories burned while gaming or walking increased 2- to 3-fold as compared to watching television.
Similarly, high rates of energy expenditure, heart rate and perceived exertion were elicited from playing Wii boxing, Dance Dance Revolution Level 2 or walking at 3.5 mph.
Wii bowling and beginner level DDR elicited a 2-fold increase in energy expenditure compared to television watching.
Overall, the energy expenditure during active video game play was comparable to moderate-intensity walking.
Thus, for children who spend considerable time playing electronic screen games for entertainment, it was found that substituting that time with physically active games can be a safe, fun and valuable means of promoting energy expenditure.
The findings appear this week in the journal Pediatrics from the American Academy of Pediatrics.