Active Gaming May Help Your Child Lose Weight

Video games plus careful diet can widen the energy gap

If you want to help your overweight child get healthier, consider a weight-management plan that includes an active gaming system – where you use your entire body to play rather than only a controller.

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A recent study found that playing active video games, as part of a weight-management program, encourages overweight children to get more active and may help them to lose weight. 

Researchers were from The University of Queensland in Australia, United Health Center for Health Reform and Modernization in Minnesota and the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University in Pennsylvania. 

Increase in activity

The researchers divided 75 overweight or obese children who enrolled in a weight management program into two groups.

In one group, each member received a game console a motion capture device and two active games. No explicit advice or goals were given to the children regarding the use of their active gaming tools.

The other group merely completed the 16-week weight management program.

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Children in both groups lost weight. However, those in the gaming group lost twice as much weight as the other group.

The researchers also found that those in the gaming group increased moderate-to-vigorous activity by more than seven minutes a day.

There was no change in physical activity among the kids who participated in the weight management program only.

Widening the energy gap

Researchers believe the extra activity from the active game play may have created a greater energy gap, which help them lose weight. An energy gap is  the difference between the number of calories you eat and the number of calories you spend on physical activity.

Active gaming is a good start for children who don’t get regular exercise, says pediatrician Sara Lappé, MD, of Cleveland Clinic Children’s.

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“If your child is in a weight management program and using an active gaming system, your child is more likely to get more active during that program,” Dr. Lappé says. “The active gaming system can help your child to get up and moving and get the heart rate up.”

Active gaming in the home is convenient, safe and popular among young people. But it also is costly, the study notes. The consoles and games can cost upwards of $350.

Get exercise with your child

A better – and less expensive – way to help your child maintain a healthy weight might be to encourage your child to go for a bike ride or a walk. Better yet: lace up your sneakers and accompany your child, Dr. Lappé says.

“If your child is using an active gaming system to move more,  it can help to increase physical activity,” Dr. Lappé says. “But really, the best thing is to get active, go outside and get away from the screen.”

Complete results for the study appear in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

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