A recent study conducted by the University of Hong Kong has claimed that children can steer clear of obesity as long as they play active video games. Such children have higher heart rates and their per minute calorie-burning capacity is quadrupled as compared to those who play passive video games.
In the fight to keep children fit, video games have long been considered a virtual enemy. Now, the gaming industry has begun producing active ''extertainment'' gaming systems that could help in the battle of the bulge.
''A recent active gaming concept that allows players to experience various activities (e.g., bowling, fishing, tennis, golf) in a virtual world is the XaviX gaming system (SSD Company Ltd., Shiga, Japan),'' the authors said.
''In addition to the exercise gaming modalities, the XaviX system includes a gaming mat (XaviX J-Mat) that allows participants to travel the streets of Hong Kong at a walk or a run, avoiding obstacles and stamping out ninjas,'' they added.
Robin R. Mellecker, B.Sc., and Alison M. McManus, Ph.D., of the Institute of Human Performance, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, measured heart rate and energy (calorie) expenditure in 18 children age 6 to 12 (average age 9.6) during a 25-minute gaming protocol.
Participants rested for five minutes, then played a seated computer bowling game, an active bowling game and the action/running game for five minutes each, with five minutes of rest between active games.
Compared with resting, children burned 39 percent more calories per minute playing a seated game, 98 percent more playing active bowling and 451 percent more during the action/running game.
When compared with seated gaming, they burned 0.6 more calories playing active bowling and 3.9 more calories per minute playing on the action mat.
''This translates into a more than four-fold increase in energy expenditure for the XaviX J-Mat game. Preventing weight gain requires an energy adjustment of approximately 150 kilocalories [calories] per day. The four-fold increase in energy expenditure when playing on the XaviX J-Mat would fill the proposed energy gap, if this game were played for 35 minutes a day,'' the authors said.
Also, participants' heart rate was significantly higher during either active game than during rest (20 more beats per minute for active bowling and 79 more beats per minute for the action/running game), and also was higher during the action mat gaming than during seated gaming.
''Our data demonstrate that the two active gaming formats result in meaningful increases in energy expenditure compared with the seated screen environment. The next step is to test whether active gaming interventions can provide sustainable increases in childhood physical activity,'' the authors said.
The study is published in the September issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.