Video Games: Encouraging Kids to be Active?

Wii remote intro
Interactive games that require some form of physical activity are all the rage in today’s ever-expanding virtual gaming market. From the Wii, to the X-Box Kinect, to iPhone games that require rapid movement of the arms; video games aren’t just about playing Mario Kart and munching your way through a bag of Doritos anymore.

However, as a parent, you have to wonder how much of a benefit all that jumping up and down in front of the TV really is. Good news. According to a recent study released by the American College of Sports Medicine(ACSM), interactive video games provide some definite positive side effects.

Although the study focused only on college age and older individuals, it appears that those who currently lead a sedentary lifestyle experienced enough of an increase in heart rate to receive some cardiovascular benefit from playing games like those associated with the Wii Fit. Meanwhile, individuals who were typically active to begin with did not show major increases in heart rate. However, they did receive enough stimulation to burn some calories…And energy.

Unfortunately, scientific data regarding the effect of interactive video games on children is not currently readily available. However, applying the findings of the ACSM studies to children would lead parents to believe that there’s no harm in allowing children to spend some of their daily playtime interacting with a physically-geared video game. In fact, it may even be a great starting point for children who are already experiencing a lack of physical activity, or a reliable way to let kids burn off some steam on dreary winter days.

Some of today’s most popular physically-inspired video games include the Nintendo Wii, which mimics the movements required to participate in sports ranging from bowling to boxing. Combined with the Wii Fit console, the game can provide legitimate physical activity that leaves some users just as tired as a trip to the gym.

Recently, other gaming giants have hopped on the physical gaming platform with the introduction of the Kinect system for Xbox 360, which is similar to the Wii with refined controls. In terms of handheld gaming, even the iPhone offers some physical activity opportunities with games like “Rosita’s Jump Count” that requires children to jump up and down as they learn numbers with a favorite Sesame Street character.

We want to know: Do you use video games to encourage physical activity among your family? If so, what are your favorite virtual activities?