Active videogames can increase heart rate and energy expenditure.
At first blush, a group of researchers appear to have just published a paper that chronicles one of the most obvious conclusions ever recorded in a scientific journal: Kids who play Kinect games burn more energy than their sedentary counterparts. This probably will not come as any great shock to anyone who's gotten off the couch for a motion-controlled game recently, but hear them out. A recent small-scale study indicates that children of both sexes can use active videogames to get their hearts pumping, consume more oxygen, and burn more calories as a result. Videogames can't replace regular exercise in children just yet, but even modest health benefits could provide a good starting point to combine an activity that kids love with a way to slow the obesity epidemic.
Stephen Smallwood and his team at the University of Chester enlisted ten boys and eight girls between the ages of 11 and 15 as research subjects. The results were consistent with what you might expect. The adolescents expended between 150 and 263% as much energy over resting values while playing Dance Central and Kinect Sports: Boxing. Compared to controller-based games, their activity increased by up to 200%, suggesting that while traditional games can indeed get your heart pounding, they're not quite as physically engaging as actually getting up and moving around.
Given the small sample size and the common-sense conclusions of the study, Smallwood and his team have probably been on the receiving end of more than a few eye-rolls since their paper appeared in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. However, Smallwood's goal, for the time being, seems to be only to set down a scientific basis for videogames as an exercise tool. "Although it is unlikely that active video game play can single-handedly provide the recommended amount of physical activity ... to prevent or reverse the obesity epidemic," he says, "it appears from the results of this study that 'Kinect' active game play can contribute to children's physical activity levels and energy expenditure, at least in the short term." Could the future bring videogames to the forefront of children's fitness, or will traditional exercise have to suffice for the time being?