These days, keeping your kids away from video games may be a losing battle, but directing them toward the right kind of video games might be worth the effort. In recent years, new games such as Kinetic and Dance Factory have emerged that require players to actually move in front of the screen, and a recent study found that these games may actually help kids to lose weight. Overweight kids who switch from sedentary video games to active video games were seen to lose nearly 1 percent of their body fat.
Researchers recruited hundreds of young, overweight video game players. Half of the overweight children continued playing with their usual video games, while the other half had their games replaced with those of the active variety. After a six months passed, the kids who played the games that had them moving had lost 0.83 percent of their body fat. While this amount isn’t monumental, it’s certainly significant for kids who otherwise resist exercise.
So what are these active games like? The study used PlayStation’s EyeToy device, a camera that films players’ movements to control the action in exercise and sports-simulating games. Other companies, such as Wii, offer similar products that also encourage video game players to run, jump, kick and punch in their living rooms rather than just sit and push buttons. Never mind that most of these games merely have kids mimic the same activities you wish they’d participate in outdoors — if that’s what it takes to get them moving, we won’t tell them if you won’t!
However, if the goal is to wean kids off of video games altogether, these active video games might be counterproductive. By the end of the study, the kids playing the physical games were playing for an average of 20 minutes longer than the children who used traditional video games. All the same, active video games still appear to be beneficial, especially for children whose communities do not have a safe or adequate space or an appropriate climate for playing outdoors.