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Active video games offer 'no public health benefit,' researchers say

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After a recent study, researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston have determined that active video games like Wii Fit Plus offer "no public health benefit."

Wii Remote with Nunchuck Press Image 640
Wii Remote with Nunchuck Press Image 640

Physically active gaming, which the Wii brought to the living room and Microsoft's Kinect has been taking to the next level, has often been pegged as way to encourage physical activity in children. According to a recent study, however, the games may be having no impact at all. Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston took two groups of children between nine and twelve years old, and outfitted them with special belts to help monitor their physical activity as part of a twelve-week study. One group was given two traditional video games, while the other was provided with active games like Wii Fit Plus and EA Sports Active. In order to promote compliance with the program's guidelines, the children were given a free Wii at the end of the study — but only if they followed the instructions. Surprisingly, the active gaming group logged no more significant physical activity than the control group. In fact, the children with the active games actually averaged a few minutes less physical activity per day.

Researcher Tom Baranowski told Reuters Health that the team was "shocked by the complete lack of difference," after they had expected active video games to substantially increase the amount of activity children would engage in. It wasn't clear if the types of physical activity the games encouraged simply weren't that strenuous, or if the children were making up for their time gaming on the couch by getting exercise in other ways. In either case, the results were enough for Baranowski to state that "there's no public health benefit from having those active video games." Perhaps the Wii U will help.