A study recently published in Pediatrics by researchers at the
University of Montreal offers positive news for Wii-loving teenagers and
their parents: games such as Wii Sports and Dance Dance Revolution can
bring them closer to recommended physical activity levels.
The study is
the first of its kind. “Teenage exergamers – people who play video games
that require physical activity – are most likely females who are
stressed about their weight. On average, they play two 50 minute
sessions per week,” said study author Jennifer O’Loughlin of the
university’s Department of Social and Preventative Medicine.
than 15 percent of children and adolescents currently participate regularly in
physical activity, we are pleased to report that exergaming can add to
regular physical activity to attain physical activity guidelines”
Current guidelines recommend that youth engage in 60 minutes of moderate
or vigorous physical activity most days of the week.
looked at the family background and video game habits of 1,209
Montrealers aged between 14 and 19. Teenagers and their parents
completed surveys that covered subjects such as household income, drug
use, body weight and education, enabling the researchers to ensure that
their portrait of gamers was not influenced by a particular
The questionnaire also covered what games were
played, where, for how long, with whom, and with what intensity. Wii
Sports (68% of exergamers), Dance Dance Revolution (40%), Wii Fit Yoga
(34%), and Boxing (Punchout; 15%) were the most popular exergames played
at home. WiiSports (26%) and Dance Dance Revolution (29%) were played
most frequently at friends’ homes. Less than 1% of exergamers reported
exergaming at school.
The researchers underscored that although
previous studies have shown that boys are more likely to play videogames
in general than girls, girls are more likely to play exergames. “Girls
might be uncomfortable exercising at school because they feel judged and
these games could be providing an alternative,” O’Loughlin said, noting
that the games are particularly popular amongst youth of both genders
who are concerned about their size. “On the other hand, there could be
something about the kind of social interaction that exergaming provides
that appeals to them.”
Exergaming could provide an avenue for
addressing the serious obesity epidemic and O’Loughlin hopes that the
practice will increase. “Factors such as competitions, new consoles,
multiplayer modes, and contact with other players via the Internet could
improve participation,” she said.
“Additionally, the feasibility of
exergaming in community centers or at school should be tested.” Noting
that other studies have shown that boredom and other factors eventually
may diminish the amount of exergame activity, O’Loughlin added that more
research is needed to understand how to increase and support this kind
of physical activity.