The study, conducted by Nottingham Trent University, the Department of Health and Nottingham University Hospital, set out to investigate the levels of energy expended when playing video games. Representatives from GameCity, a street-level programme of activity that celebrates video games and interactive entertainment, were also involved in supporting the clinical trials.
Videogaming has been implicated as a contributory factor in making children overweight. Since stopping children playing videogames altogether is unlikely – or indeed unwarranted – the research group decided to investigate the health benefits of playing more dynamic and interactive forms of videogames. They also investigated whether the time spent playing can contribute towards daily, moderate to vigorous, physical activity in children.
Fifteen children were recruited for the first phase of the study, which began in February last year. Their energy expenditure was determined when at rest, while playing ‘traditional’ (those requiring no real physical movement) videogames and then while playing interactive multimedia videogames (Sony EyeToy and Nintendo Wii Sports). Heart rates were monitored throughout the 10-minute sampling period. The resulting data highlighted that, during active gameplay, energy expenditure can be increased by approximately 42% above the levels measured during the more traditional gameplay sessions. Conclusions based on these studies suggested that if children engaged in active play for 60 minutes every day over a year, they would burn approximately 7.5lbs of body fat.
Michael Rawlinson, Director General of ELSPA (the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association) said:“ We are delighted with the conclusions of the study. The early signs are that these highly interactive games may offer a means of helping provide the recommended daily physical activity for children in the secure environs of their own homes.”
A second phase of the study is now underway. Interactive, dynamic gaming systems are being considered as an ‘intervention strategy’ for tackling obesity. Obese groups face understandable barriers to more traditional exercise and outdoors activities. Interactive games, which can easily be played in the safety of the child's home, may be one way of minimising these barriers. This second phase is due to be completed by late spring this year. The findings will be used to develop a strategy to encourage behavioural change in children and promote involvement in physical activity.