JAMA Logo Interactive digital gaming activities that include player movement (exergaming), such as dancing or boxing apparently have great health benefits for children. In a major breakthrough, experts found that middle school-aged kids who indulge in interactive digital gaming activities have elevated energy expenditure to a level of moderate or vigorous intensity. Such activities can be probably employed to fight obesity.

At the time of the study, investigators focused on analyzing the effects of 6 forms of exergaming, three of which included commercial products and the other 3 had consumer products on energy expenditure among kids of different BMIs. Scientists examined 39 boys and girls with an average age of 11.5 years. Apart from treadmill walking at 3 miles per hour, energy expenditure of several exergames was assessed for 10 minutes. Some of these exergames were Dance Dance Revolution, LightSpace (Bug Invasion), Nintendo Wii (Boxing), Cybex Trazer (Goalie Wars), Sportwall, and Xavix (J-Mat). All the study subjects had 5 minutes of seated rest between each activity.

Authors mention, “Although exergaming is most likely not the solution to the epidemic of reduced physical activity in children, it appears to be a potentially innovative strategy that can be used to reduce sedentary time, increase adherence to exercise programs, and promote enjoyment of physical activity. This may be especially important for at-risk populations, specifically children who carry excess body weight. Future research should longitudinally evaluate the impact of exergaming on physical activity patterns in youth. In addition, more research is needed to evaluate how prolonged participation in exergaming alters energy balance and adiposity.”

Bruce W. Bailey, Ph.D., of Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, and Kyle McInnis, Sc.D., of the University of Massachusetts, Boston observed that all forms of interactive gaming resulted in raised energy expenditure with no between-group differences among normal and at-risk or overweight children. Walking at 3 miles per hour seemingly led to an average metabolic equivalent task value of 4.9. The intensity of exergaming, on the other hand, reported average metabolic equivalent task values of 4.2 for Wii, 5.4 for Dance Dance Revolution, 6.4 for LightSpace, 7.0 for Xavix, 5.9 for Cybex Trazer, and 7.1 for Sportwall.

This level of intensity appears consistent with current physical activity recommendations for children. Even though the enjoyment of the games was generally high, overall children at risk of becoming overweight or who were overweight claimed to have had fun from the exergames to a greater extent than those with a BMI below the 85th percentile.

The study will appear in the July print issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.