If your child has gained weight, you might attribute some of the blame to video games, but according to a new study by researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS), certain blood-pumping video games can actually benefit your child’s wellness by boosting his energy expenditure, which could especially benefit inner-city minority children, who suffer the most from obesity.
The team recruited 104 African American and other minority kids in years 3 to 8 from one American school, in order to see how traditional P.E. activities would stack up against Dance Dance Revolution (DDR – where you dance along to electronic music in ever-increasing and complicated patterns) and another active video game called Winds of Orbis: An Active Adventure (Orbis – where you play the role of a virtual superhero that climbs, jumps, slides and has other sorts of active adventures). The children involved in the study still attended their regular P.E. lessons, during which they were randomly assigned to three 20 minute sessions of DDR, Orbis or the usual lesson.
The results were that the children still expended more energy during the regular P.E. activities, but younger children were spurred on to move enough to meet the recommended intensity criteria for vigorous activity by the video games. Lead author Todd Miller, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Exercise Science at SPHHS, said this could indicate that children, at least younger children, might benefit from an alternative to regular P.E. activities.
According to Miller, ‘A lot of people say screen time is a big factor in the rising tide of childhood obesity, but if a kid hates playing dodge ball but loves Dance Dance Revolution why not let him work up a sweat playing E-games?’
In America, the wellbeing benefits have been put into action in schools, with many schools turning to active video games in physical education (P.E.) classes, in order to get unmotivated or not-sporty children moving again, and Miller urges the same could be done for African Americans and other minority children, who are at high risk of obesity. ‘Many of these children live in neighbourhoods without safe places to play or ride a bike after school,’ Miller said. ‘If E-games can get them to move in school then maybe they’ll play at home too and that change could boost their physical activity to a healthier level.’