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Wii active video games don't count as exercise

A new study shows that kids who play Wii Sports or Dance Dance Revolution are as active as those who play Disney Sing-It Pop Hits or Super Mario Galaxy.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read
The Wii U. Sarah Tew/CNET

It seemed like the perfect setup--give kids video games that would motivate them to get off the couch and start moving. Not only would they have fun, they would also get healthier.

However, these high hopes may have been wishful thinking. According to a new study by Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, kids given "active" video games showed no more overall physical exertion than kids who used only their thumbs to play.

"There was no evidence that children receiving the active video games were more active in general, or at anytime, than children receiving the inactive video games," reads the study. "These results provide no reason to believe that simply acquiring an active video game under naturalistic circumstances provides a public health benefit to children."

For the study, researchers gave 78 children, who were above-average weight and between the ages of 9 to 12, a Nintendo Wii console. Half of the kids got "active" video games like Wii Sports and Dance Dance Revolution-Hottest Party 3, and the other half got "inactive" games, such as Disney Sing-It Pop Hits or Super Mario Galaxy. Over the course of the 13-week study, researchers kept logs of their play times and activity levels.

"We expected that playing the video games would in fact lead to a substantial increase in physical activity in the children," Tom Baranowski, lead researcher on the study, told Reuters in an interview. "Frankly, we were shocked by the complete lack of difference."

Researchers tallied the children's average time of moderate or vigorous activity and came up with between 25 to 28 minutes a day for the kids who played active games and between 26 and 29 minutes a day for the kids with inactive games.

Earlier studies, such as one by the University of Massachusetts in Boston that came out last year, showed that interactive games could improve moderate or even vigorous activity while playing.

Baranowski told Reuters he isn't sure why the results came out nearly the same for both groups; one suggestion is that possibly the children in the active group played with minimal effort, another is that they exercised less than they otherwise would throughout the day.