Can Video Games Improve Kids' Fitness?

Health & Wellness on 07.11.11
Contributor bio | twitter

First, we find out that video games make kids smarter.  Now we are told they can improve kids' fitness too.

Health Day reports that a study conducted on middle school kids at Brigham Young University found that certain video games--the ones that make players move around--can actually burn calories.

I know what you're saying, and it's the same reaction I had: Duh.

Moving ones body vigorously requires calories.  Playing games like Dance Dance Revolution and Nintendo Wii boxing requires moving ones body vigorously.  Ergo, playing these games will expend, or "burn" calories.  It doesn't take a team of federally funded eggheads to solve that equation.

My second thought about this piece of information may also be similar to yours: That's awesome.  You know what else makes kids burn calories? Running around and playing.

Despite my knee-jerk reactions as a guy who doesn't really see the appeal of video games over "real life," I do think this kind of research is valuable.  If we can quantify how much these games actually contribute to children's fitness, perhaps parents will be more likely to buy "exergames" than sedentary ones for their kids, and manufacturers will develop more of them.

But the one aspect of the study that I found most arresting was that the children with higher body mass indexes (BMIs), enjoyed the games even more than the kids with average BMIs did.  I'm probably reading way more into this than my limited information about the study merits, but I am imagining that these overweight kids, who might not like engaging in physical activity with their more fit peers found a fun way to use their bodies without risking pressure, exhaustion, or humiliation.

As I said, the above is a big assumption on my part.  But I can relate to not wanting to join in at gym class or in the neighborhood courtyard, park, or vacant lot.  Even though I usually had an average BMI (of course no one ever used that term in my day) growing up, I was often the new kid, and I was mediocre at most team sports, so I wasn't highly motivated to join all the other kids who had been playing with each other for years.  And when I discovered American TV, after having spent a good deal of my young life overseas, I found my alternative to the social awkwardness of play.  I got chubby very quickly.  But when another move overseas pulled me away from my beloved idiot box, I shed the weight almost immediately.

I would rather see kids running around outside than relying on screen-time for entertainment, but if they must stare at a TV or monitor, at least it's better if they're jumping around while they do it.  

More Posts about Kids and Screen-Time

Should I Keep my Toddlers TV Free?
Can Video Games Make Kids Smarter?
Let Your Kids Watch TV!