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Video games have often been viewed as the culprits behind inactivity of children, turning them into couch potatoes.

However, a recent study conducted by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville could change this belief.

The university published an article in the Games for Health Journal that indicates that certain video games may actually provide modest to intense workouts for children ages five to eight. Director Hollie Raynor of UT’s Healthy Eating and Activity Lab explained that playing video games that involve the child’s entire body is synonymous to physical activity. He pointed out that previous studies had ignored this benefit, and this study incorporates it by comparing energy expenditure in video games to that of unstructured outdoor play.

 Can active video games prove to be a form of exercise for children?

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The study occurred over a period of three weeks, during which a child between the ages of five to eight was engaged for 20 minutes in one active video gaming period and one unstructured outside play session. Children had accelerometers, or instruments to monitor their movement, tied to their hip and both wrists. The children could halt and rest at any time during the activity.

Children could choose any type of activity outdoors. Outdoor sessions included a playground with two grassy areas, a small paved area, a climbing tree, hula hoops, playground equipment, and an assortment of balls.

For the video game session, participants used a 40-inch TV and the Xbox 360 Kinect, a controller-free system that uses the entire body through motion sensors and skeletal tracking. The Kinect Adventures River Rush video game was selected for a total body workout, with an ESRB rating of E for Everyone and no requirement of any expertise to play.

 One group of children were active on a typical playground with equipment, while the other engaged in motion gaming on the Xbox 360 Kinect.

Image Source: Thomas Barwick

Qualified observers recorded activity using the Children’s Activity Rating Scale and estimated energy expenditure using minute-by-minute counts. The hip accelerometer on children showed a significant difference in reading between gaming and outdoor play, with active video gaming having a larger percentage of modest to intense activity than unstructured outdoor play.

This outcome indicated that active video games can be a source of vigorous physical workout for children. However, the researchers state that they aren’t trying to push for video games to replace outdoor activity, but they simply encourage parents to make better choices in buying games. Whether through gaming or outdoor play, it is essential for kids to get their recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

Feature Image Source: video games and laundry by Jukie Bot

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