Availability not enough
“Simply having active video games available in the store or at home will not by itself contribute to increased physical activity,” said Dr. Tom Baranowski, professor of pediatrics at BCM and first author of the report.
The study followed 78 children between 9 and 12 years of age. All were given Nintendo Wii consoles as a part of the study.
Researchers measured the physical activity of all participants for seven days before the beginning of the study using a device called an accelerometer.
Participants were divided into a study group and a control group. Children in the study group were asked to select one of five active video games, defined as those that promoted physical activity, at week one and week seven of the study. Children in the control group were asked to select one of five inactive video games at week one and week seven of the study. Researchers used sales data to be sure that both groups had popular games to choose from. Participants were also provided with all the materials needed to play the games.
Measuring physician activity
Using the accelerometer, researchers measured physical activity in both groups at week one, six, seven and 12 and found no difference in physical activity levels between the control and study groups.
“It’s not clear whether those in the study group were more active as a result of the video games but compensated by being less active later in the day or if they found a way to manipulate the instruments to minimize the amount of physical activity,” said Baranowski. “It doesn’t appear that there’s any public health value to having active video games available in stores – simply having those active video games available on the shelf or at home doesn’t automatically lead to increased levels of physical activity in children.”
Baranowski notes that it would be useful to design public health interventions using these active video games as a part of a prescribed intervention program and give participants guidance as to how, when and how often they should use the active video games.
Researchers are now considering conducting studies with other game consoles that visually monitor physical activity to see whether they result in increased physical activity in participants.
Others who took part in the study include Dina Abdelsamad, Janice Baranowski, Teresia O’Connor, Deborah Thompson and Tzu-An Chen of BCM and Anthony Barnett and Ester Cerin of the University of Hong Kong.
Funding for the study came from the National Cancer Institute and the United States Department of Agriculture/Agriculture Research Service.