A new study shows that children who play games like Dance Dance Revolution or Wii Sports are no more likely to exercise than those who play a completely sedentary game, a statistic that the study's researchers said they found "shocking." The study, which was conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, found that not only did people who played active games not really take the initiative to participate in external strenuous activity, but the amount of strenuous activity they showed during gameplay was matched by children who were playing sedentary games.
In other words, the study took two groups of children - one was given an active game and the other a game like Super Mario Galaxy. The children's physical activity was tracked by a belt that they were required to wear for the duration of the study. Only children who complied with that instruction were allowed to keep their Wii, so the results were deemed significantly accurate. The kids who had active games showed an average of 25-28 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity every day, while the other group showed 26-29 minutes. That's right - the "sedentary" group actually demonstrated more physical activity.
In a Reuters interview, researcher Tom Baranowski said, "We expected that playing the video games would in fact lead to a substantial increase in physical activity in the children. Frankly we were shocked by the complete lack of difference." The implications of the study are difficult to determine, but it seems like perhaps kids who play a strenuous video game for a short time will relax the rest of the day, while those who play "couch-potato" style games will still feel the need to burn off some energy in some other way. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but this study shows active gaming may not be the magic solution people thought it was.