Active video games are often touted as ways to help kids be more physically active—but don’t toss the basketball and jump rope just yet. A study finds that having active video games in the home may not translate into more exercise.
The study, released Monday in the journal Pediatrics, tested video games among 78 children ages 9 to 12 with a body mass index between the 50th and the 99th percentile, a group considered at risk for adult obesity. Researchers introduced video games and consoles into homes that didn’t already have them. There was no mandate about how much time the kids had to play with the games, and other games could be played, simulating real life.
Children randomly assigned to a study group were allowed to choose two active video games over 13 weeks, while others in a control group chose two inactive videos over 13 weeks. Activity was measured in both groups after the first, sixth, seventh and 12th weeks via accelerometers.
No differences in levels of physical activity were noted between the two groups. “None of the active video games had a narrative or story; wrapping an engaging narrative around the activity in active video games may motivate more intense and maintained [physical activity],” the authors wrote.
Other studies have revealed a mixed bag of results from active video game use done under lab conditions, with some finding they increase physical activity and at least one showing no changes.
Various forms of active video games can be found in some gyms, community centers and schools.
“It doesn’t appear that there’s any public health value to having active video games available in stores,” said lead author Tom Baranowski, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, in a news release. “Simply having those active video games available on the shelf or at home doesn’t automatically lead to increased levels of physical activity in children.”