Are active video games just as good for fitness as traditional play and exercise?
I have been asked this question many times before by parents. If you look on-line you will find the Wii Fit, Fitness evolved and EA sports active 2 just to name a few of many. They sound great and no one can argue the convenience of them but do they work?
Our society is facing a childhood obesity problem and some say the answer is active video games (AVG). These games are different since they are defined as video games that require physical activity beyond that of a passive game. In August 2015 Huffington post published an article stating that “researchers found that active video games — the kind that involve standing up and moving around while a game console’s sensors track your movements — are more effective at conjuring intense physical activity in young children than regular ol’ unstructured outdoor play”. 1
However, a recent report in the Journal of Pediatric Physical Therapy stated that “AVGs may be useful for stimulating light-moderate intensities only”. 2 The use of a AVG is only recommended when children cannot play or engage in traditional forms of active play or exercise. AVGs can help to get children who are sedentary in their daily life become more active. The report went on to say that “AVGs should not be a substitute for traditional active play and exercise, but might offer and interesting alternative to prevent prolonged sitting and perhaps influence the spontaneous compensatory mechanisms usually described during physical activity programs. 2
In conclusion relying on AVGs as your child’s only source of exercise is not recommended if he or she can engage in outside play or sports. Through traditional play and exercise children learn locomotion skills, grasping skills, reflexes and object manipulation skills. Balance strategies for functional activities of daily living are something I teach every day and difficult to learn from a AVG. Our summers are hot making outside play hard to engage in but our winters are very nice in Arizona. So go outside and play !!!!
– Josh PTA
- Obesity Prevention and Video Games. (2016, October). The Journal of Pediatric Physical Therapy, 28(4), 368-370.