Video Games: Exercise for Kids?
Focused on Health - August 2011
by Adelina Espat
When my six-year-old son asked for a Kinect® video game console, he looked at me seriously and said, “Mom, I need more exercise.”
Well, he had the right pitch. That’s because encouraging kids to adopt healthy habits at a young age can put them on the right path to preventing cancer and other diseases later in life.
And, game consoles, like the Kinect® and Wii®, allow players to add “exercise,” such as swinging, walking, running and dancing, to their game.
But do these new active-play video games actually give kids the 60 minutes of daily physical activity they need to stay healthy?
A recent study on exergames, or video games that include exercise, says active-play video games have the potential to increase physical activity. But, the study also shows that not all games are created equal — some result in more “exercise” than others.
So, how do you find games that promote enough activity to raise your kid’s heart rate?
Lindsay Mingle, a senior occupational therapist at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, uses active-play video games to help kids improve their basic motor functions. She offers these suggestions.
Visit the game console site
Learn more about the game you want to buy before purchasing. Game console websites have lots of information. On some sites, you can even view sample videos of the games to get more familiar with the features.
For consoles that use a wireless motion controller, like the Wii®, look at the game category. If the video game falls under sports, dance or fitness, that’s a good sign your kid will be up and off the couch.
Most video games for consoles that use motion detectors instead of controllers, like the Kinect®, qualify as active-play. That’s because players must use full body motion to control the game. But, it’s still a good idea to visit the console site. This way, you can find out which games really have what it takes to entice your kid to move.
Rent the game before buying
You can rent video games from most video rental stores and websites. This is definitely a more affordable way to test a new active-play game in your household before purchasing.
When you try the game at home, watch your kids while they play. Look for these cues to help you decide if the game’s a keeper.
- Do your kids have to stand up to play the game?
- Is the game exciting enough to get your kids to stay standing and enjoy active play for at least 30 minutes?
- Are your kids moving at a high enough intensity to get their heart rate up? Are they sweating or short of breath?
If the answer to these questions is yes, you may have a winning game.
Don’t replace outdoor play with video games
“The video game version of a sport may be full of active, indoor fun,” Mingle says. “But, it still won’t offer the same level of exercise as playing the actual sport itself.”
So, playing video games should not replace outdoor activity. Instead, treat video games as a way to motivate your kids to exercise and try other forms of physical activity.
And remember, adults need exercise too. So, join your kids in the fun. The best way to keep kids healthy is to set a good example for them. And, always consult your pediatrician before starting your kids on any new fitness routine.
Current Issue - May 2013
Content - August 2011
Cancer Risk Check
Could you be more likely to get cancer?
Find out by taking MD Anderson’s Cancer Risk Check.