All or Nothing: Active Games Best for Combating Sedentary Behavior After School Time

A new study coming out of Australia says that video games are great for combating sedentary time after school and making small improvements in physical activity levels – if the only ones you play are "active games." Leon Straker, PhD, of Curtin University in Perth, Australia led a team to conduct a crossover trial study to see how the effectiveness of active games could be maximized. One of the best ways was to remove all other kinds of games that did not require the user to get up and move. Removing all video games from the home of participants had similar results.

The study was a crossover trial comparing levels of sedentary behavior and physical activity using three conditions, each for 8 weeks in a randomized order: no electronic video games in the house; only traditional video games played on a Sony PlayStation 2; and only active video games played on a Sony PlayStation 2 with EyeToy and dance mat peripherals.

The study included 56 children ages 10 to 12 who were living in Perth. Nearly all participants had home access to electronic games (91 percent) and had played them in the last month (95 percent). During the study, the average time spent in daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity measured using an accelerometer was 55.8 minutes with no games in the house, 54.1 minutes with sedentary games, and 56.1 minutes with active games.

In the after-school period, the complete removal of video games from the home saw an increase in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (by 3.8 minutes) and a decrease in sedentary time (by 4.7 minutes). A similar outcome was recorded when replacing the sedentary games with active games, with an increase in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (by 3.2 minutes) and a decrease in sedentary time (by 6.2 minutes).

"This study has shown that replacing sedentary electronic games with active electronic games will provide at least as good an activity outcome and perhaps be easier for the parent and child to sustain than removing electronic game technology from the home," the study noted.

Researchers conceded that there are some limitations to the study, including the termination a year earlier than planned because the availability of newer gaming technology made it difficult to recruit children for the original protocol. Other limitations included the withdrawal of and lack of accelerometry data for some participants and the inability to precisely measure how much the active video games were used.

The study was funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia project grant.

Source: Medpage Today

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