By Krystle Z.
Back in the day (1998 to be exact), Dance Dance Revolution was all the rage, and kids were showing their moves on arcade machines all over the world. DDR was soon made available for home gaming systems so people could bust a move in the privacy of their own homes, which is probably where DDR should be done anyway. Over ten years later, the active video game market has exploded. Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus were two of the top 5 video games titles sold world-wide in 2009, and last year, Sony Playstation Move and Xbox Kinect joined the active video game market.I have played my share of Wii Sports and Dance Central for Kinect, so I was curious to find out if my leisure time could actually count as physical activity and provide some health benefits. A Pubmed search for “Wii” will generate over 160 hits and future research in the health benefits of video games will likely be found in a new peer reviewed journal, Games for Health: Research, Development, and Clinical Applications (G4H), that will be released this fall. The growing research has also caught the attention of the American Heart Association, who recently teamed up with Nintendo to host “The Power of Play: Innovation in Getting Active Summit” in January. The summit brought together scientists, health professionals, and video game designers to discuss physiological and psychological benefits of active video games and to identify future directions for the development of new games.
Two recent meta-analyses suggest that active video games can increase the user's heart rate and energy expenditure at levels similar to light to moderate-intensity physical activity and can be counted towards physical activity recommendations (1, 3). A recent survey found that over 65% of people who played active video games reported that they became more physically active; suggesting that active video games may be a gateway for user's to begin other physical activity (2) . Just how many calories can you burn playing video games? The American Council for Exercise funded two studies to find this out. Calorie expenditure was measured in 8 men and 8 women (20-29 years of age) while playing Wii Sports and Wii Fit games. Some of their findings:
Wii Sports Bowling 3.9 kcal/min
Wii Tennis 5.3 kcal/min
Wii Boxing 7.2 kcal/min
Wii Fit Free Run 5.5 kcal/min
Over 50% of adults are not meeting physical activity requirements, but active video games may help reduce that number by providing an alternative to a gym membership (not always affordable) or outdoor activities (limited in the winter or extremely hot summers). Now, if people can't make it out of the house to exercise, at least they can get off of the sofa!
1. Peng W, Lin J, Crouse J. Is playing exergames really exercising? A meta-analysis of energy expenditure in active video games. Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking. 2011.
2. Lieberman D, Chamberlin B, Medina E, Franklin B, Sanner B, Vafiadis D. The power of play: Innovations in getting active summit 2011: A science panel proceedings report from the american heart association. Circulation. 2011;123(21):2507-16.
3. Guy S, Ratzki Leewing A, Gwadry Sridhar F. Moving beyond the stigma: Systematic review of video games and their potential to combat obesity. International Journal of Hypertension. 2011;2011:179124-Epub 2011 Mar 31.