Every time my kids hunker down for a long stretch of screen time, I get a tiny pang of guilt. The little good-parent-voice in my head says: They should be outside running around (or inside running around if you're in New England, still praying for an end to this relentless winter). In any case, they should be active, not immobilized in front of a screen.
But maybe it's OK for them to be active, and in front of a screen. A study published earlier this month in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that yes, those active video games do help overweight and obese kids boost their physical activity levels and lose weight too.
Here's more on the study from Reuters:
Both groups took part in the weight management program at local YMCAs and schools, but one group also received an Xbox game console and two active games.
The Xbox Kinect device captures the child's body movements to operate the game. The games given to the kids in the active gaming group were Kinect Adventures! and Kinect Sports. (Children in the weight-loss program-only group received the same equipment and games at the end of the study).
All the children's activity were recorded using an accelerometer, which measures movement, during the day.
At the start of the study, the children were between the ages of 8 and 12 years old and weighed between 123 and 132 pounds (lbs). About 67 percent of the kids had a body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight relative to height, that put them in the overweight category for their age groups. The rest of the children were in the obese category.
The researchers found that children in the group that received the active games added about seven minutes of moderate to vigorous activity and about three minutes of vigorous activity to their daily routines over the 16 weeks.
Meanwhile children in the group that only took part in the weight loss program didn't experience a significant change in their activity levels or duration.
Although the difference between groups appears to be small, the researchers write in JAMA Pediatrics, the added activity among the game-users group is equivalent to about 4 lbs of fat lost over a year.