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Active video gaming can make children of five to eight years of age expend as much energy as unstructured outdoor play does, new research says.
"Our study shows video games which wholly engage a child's body can be a source of physical activity," said Hollie Raynor, associate professor of nutrition at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in the US.
"Previous studies investigating active video games had not investigated the energy expenditure of these games as compared to unstructured outdoor play. The purpose of the study was to compare energy expenditure to unstructured outdoor play," Raynor said.
Children between the ages of five and eight years old were given three accelerometers--one for the hip and one for each wrist to better assess upper-body movement.
During a three-week period, each child engaged in one active video gaming session and one unstructured outdoor playtime.
The outdoor play session took place on a playground with two grassy areas, a small paved area, a climbing tree, hula hoops, playground equipment and an assortment of balls. Children were allowed to participate in any type of activity.
The active video gaming session took place with a 40-inch television and the Xbox 360 Kinect, a controller-free gaming system that incorporates the whole body in the game through motion sensors and skeletal tracking.
A significant difference between active video gaming and outdoor play was found for the accelerometer located on the hip of participants, with active video gaming having a greater percentage of moderate to vigorous intensity than unstructured outdoor play.
These findings suggest that active video games may be a good source of physical activity for younger children.
"We are not saying video games should replace outdoor play, but there are better choices people can make when choosing the types of video games for their children," Raynor said.