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Allowing kids to use video games for exercise

September 2, 2008 |  2:43 pm

Video3 OK, so you can't talk your 10-year-old into signing up for soccer, gymnastics or even horseshoes. It's still possible to introduce the concept of physical activity to your children on their terms. A study published this week in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine describes the difference between various video games and concludes that some of them could help a youngster shape up.

The study, from researchers at the Institute of Human Performance, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, found that children burn more than four times as many calories per minute playing an active video game than playing a seated game and that heart rate is much higher with the active game.

The study only measured activity in 18 children ages 6 to 12. But it showed that compared with resting, children playing a seated video game burned 39% more calories per minute. Those playing an active game, such as bowling, burned 98% more calories. Finally, those playing a game that involved running or action, such as the newer virtual sports games, burned 451% more calories per minute. The next goal for researchers is to determine whether these increases in calories burned and heart rate translates to sustained physical activity and better fitness.

The video-game obsession among children coupled with growing rates of childhood obesity have concerned parents and health professionals for years. But the advent of the exercise video game may be a trend everyone can get behind.

"This observation is important because electronic entertainment is not going away," writes Russell R. Pate of the University of South Carolina School of Public Health, in an editorial accompanying the study. "So, if we want to promote physical activity in the context of contemporary society, we will have to fight fire with fire. Physically active video gaming may be part of the antidote to the poisonous growth of sedentary entertainment."

-- Shari Roan

Photo credit: Time Boyle/Getty Images