Research: Active Gaming and Team Work Can Help Children Lose Weight

A new study published in the scientific journal Obesity finds that active games or exergaming are a good way for children to lose weight. The goal of the study, "Adolescent Exergame Play for Weight Loss and Psychosocial Improvement: A Controlled Physical Activity Intervention," was to find effective ways to encourage youngsters to be more physically active through video gaming. Researchers Sandra Calvert, Ph.D. and Anisha Abraham, MD of Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.) found that exergames support weight loss for youngsters and that when they work together as a team, they are more effective in using gaming to lose weight.

"Faced with a pediatric obesity crisis, our nation urgently needs sustainable physical activities that promote healthy weight in youth," said study author Amanda Staiano, Ph.D., of Pennington Biomedical Research Center (Baton Rouge, Louisiana). "In the past, light-to-moderate energy expenditure has been documented during exergame play; however, this is the first study to demonstrate weight loss among teenagers as a result."

Using 54 overweight and obese African-American adolescents age 15-19, the study found that participants showed improvements in weight loss and psychosocial outcomes over a 20-week time period. Researchers encouraged participants to play the EA Sports Active game for Nintendo Wii for 30-60 minutes per school day in a lunch-time or afterschool program. The exergame participants, who worked with a peer to earn points, lost significantly more weight than the control group -by over five pounds. They also showed improvements in self-efficacy and peer support.

"It's no secret that many teens in the U.S. are affected by obesity and face the challenges that often come with the disease, such as high blood pressure, prediabetes and poor self-esteem," said Harvey Grill, Ph.D., President of The Obesity Society. "During the past 30 years, adolescent obesity has more than tripled. Parents, policymakers, healthcare professionals and educators alike are looking for new, exciting ways to engage our youth in healthier habits, including exercise. It's great to see that exergame play can be an effective method to help adolescents lose weight."

You can read the full study here.


"video games" art © 2013, Shutterstock.

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