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16-05-2011 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Active video games can improve body composition in overweight/obese children


Free abstract

MedWire News: Overweight and obese children who play active video games for more than 2 hours per week could significantly reduce their body mass index (BMI) and improve their body composition, research suggests.

Louise Foley (University of Auckland, New Zealand) and colleagues showed that an active video game intervention, where children were provided with games in which players physically interact with images on the screen, had favorable effects on BMI and body fat measures over a 6-month period.

Previous studies have shown that increased time spent in sedentary, screen-based activities, such as watching TV, playing video games, and using computers, can contribute to high rates of overweight and obesity.

"Parents may have more success encouraging the displacement of less-active video games with more-active ones rather than trying to stop children and young people from using these games altogether," say Foley et al.

The team randomly assigned 322 overweight and obese (according to the International Obesity Task Force international cutoffs for child obesity) children, who were current users of sedentary video games (≥2 hours/week) and aged between 10 and 14 years, to receive either an active video game intervention (n=160) or to make no change to their video gaming habits (control; n=162).

After 24 weeks, the researchers observed a significant treatment-effect on changes in BMI from baseline, which favored the intervention group. Specifically, the mean BMI of the intervention group was 25.6 kg/m2 at baseline and 24.8 kg/m2 at 24 weeks, while the control group had a mean BMI of 25.8 kg/m2 at both time points.

This represents a significant intervention effect of a 0.24 kg/m2 reduction in BMI, report the researchers in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The team also observed a significant reduction in body fat in the intervention group, from 32.1% at baseline to 29.8% at follow-up, representing an estimated intervention effect of -0.83%.

Furthermore, compared with the control group, the intervention group played on average, 9.39 minutes less sedentary, and 10.03 minutes more active video games per day at the end of the study.

The authors note that their intervention could easily be implemented, as the cost of active video games is comparable to that of traditional sedentary video games.

However, "additional work is needed to determine how to best augment the effects of such interventions to achieve a greater magnitude of an effect on body weight," conclude Foley and team.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Nikki Withers

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