Study: Interactive exercise games qualify as exercise

Researchers study middle-school children playing so-called exergames and find that energy expenditure during the games can be moderate or even vigorous in intensity.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
2 min read
So-called exergaming can result in energy expenditure well above walking 3 mph on a treadmill, researchers have found. enfad/Flickr

Those who prefer the comfort and proximity of their own living rooms to the gym have good news today: so-called exergames can indeed result in elevated energy expenditures, often above that achieved walking 3 miles an hour on a treadmill.

Bruce W. Bailey, a researcher at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and Kyle McInnis of the University of Massachusetts in Boston studied the effects of six forms of exergaming--interactive "gaming activities that feature player movement"--on 39 middle school boys and girls. They assessed energy expenditure throughout 10 minutes of play followed by 5 minutes of rest.

The results: walking at 3 miles per hour resulted in an average metabolic equivalent task value of 4.9; Wii boxing came in at 4.2; Dance Dance Revolution at 5.4; Cybex Trazer Goalie Wars at 5.9; LightSpace Bug Invasion at 6.4; Xavix J-Mat at 7.0; and Sportwall at 7.1.

The only difference between "normal" children (those with a body mass index at less than the 85th percentile) and "at-risk" children (BMI 85th percentile and up) was that those considered at-risk reported the highest levels of enjoyment while playing the games. The researchers also specified that all six exergaming intensity levels are consistent with current physical activity recommendations for children.

"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," the authors said in their report that went live online today. Their report will appear in the July print issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

This is just the beginning of the group's research interests. Other areas of interest include monitoring total physical activity and energy expenditure over weeks and months and comparing exergames to other forms of exercise and sport.