If you want to buy your child a video game, buy a game that rewards physical activity. New research shows that playing some activity-promoting video games can be as beneficial as other forms of moderate exercise. For instance, adolescents who played Wii Sports Boxing showed physiological effects that were classified as moderate physical activity. Researchers concluded that children, ages 10-to 14-years old, who played eight hours of Wii Boxing per week, burned 1,990 calories; this is three times more calories than they would have expended if they were playing a sedentary video game. Researchers do not dismiss the importance of children engaging in traditional physical activities, such as walking briskly and running. However, if your child is going to play a video game, encourage those that reward physical activity as opposed to a sedentary video game.
Additional exergaming options include Wii Fit™, EA SPORTS Active,™ Dance Revolution™, and The Beatles: Rock Band. In fact, other research has shown that children who played certain video games burned:
• 125 calories in 15 minutes while boxing
• 92 calories in 15 minutes while playing tennis, and
• 77 calories in 15 minutes while bowling.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children between 6-and 17-years of age should engage in 60 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity most days of the week. Running and brisk walking are examples of aerobic activities that can improve your child’s overall health and reduce the risks for developing many diseases. Children should also participate in muscle-strengthening exercises at least three days a week. Also, The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests:
• Absolutely no screen time or video game playing for children under the age of three years, and
• No more than 1 hour of total screen time (includes playing video games) for children ages 3-12 years per day
If your child will be playing video games, find games that increase your child’s energy expenditure, heart rate, and perceived exertion, because many of these exergames produce effects similar to moderate-intensity exercise. More important, parents should remain mindful of the benefits of traditional exercise, as well as the recommendations for the amount of time children should play video games and engage in physical activities.
Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.