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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DEVELOPMENT AND PREVENTION OF CHILDHOOD OBESITY

Location: Children's Nutrition Research Center

Title: Impact of an active video game on healthy children's physical activity

Authors
item Baranowski, Tom -
item Abdelsamad, Dina -
item Baranowski, Janice -
item O'Connor, Teresia -
item Thompson, Deborah
item Barnett, Anthony -
item Cerin, Ester -
item Chen, Tzu-An -

Submitted to: Pediatrics
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 9, 2011
Publication Date: February 27, 2012
Citation: Baranowski, T., Abdelsamad, D., Baranowski, J., O'Connor, T.M., Thompson, D.J., Barnett, A., Cerin, E., Chen, T. 2012. Impact of an active video game on healthy children's physical activity. Pediatrics. 129:e636-e642.

Interpretive Summary: We wanted to know whether providing a child with a new active video game increased their physical activity. We randomly assigned 84 9 to 12 year old children to treatment or control groups. All children received a Wii console to keep if they completed all data collection. Treatment group children were given a choice of an active video game (from the 5 most popular such games at the time of the study) with all the equipment necessary to run the game at the beginning of week one and another at the beginning of week 7. Control group children were given a choice of an inactive video game with all the equipment necessary to run the game at the beginning of week one and another at the beginning of week 7. Physical activity was measured objectively before any games were received and the first and sixth weeks after getting each game. There was no evidence of any difference in physical activity betweeen the treatment group and control groups at any of the five weeks of physical activity measurement. We interpret this study to mean that there is no public health physical activity benefit from having active video games avaiable in stores or at home.

Technical Abstract: This naturalistic study tests whether children receiving a new (to them) active video game spontaneously engage in more physical activity than those receiving an inactive video game, and whether the effect would be greater among children in unsafe neighborhoods,who might not be allowed to play outside. Participants were children 9 to 12 years of age, with a BMI >50th percentile, but <99th percentile; none of these children a medical condition that would preclude physical activity or playing video games. A randomized clinical trial assigned children to receiving 2 active or 2 inactive video games, the peripherals necessary to run the games, and a Wii console. Physical activity was monitored by using accelerometers for 5 weeks over the course of a 13-week experiment. Neighborhood safety was assessed with a 12 item validated questionnaire. There was no evidence that children receiving the active video games were more active in general, or at anytime, than children receiving the inactive video games. The outcomes were not moderated by parent perceived neighborhood safety, child BMI z score, or other demographic characteristics. These results provide no reason to believe that simply acquiring an active video game under naturalistic circumstances provides a public health benefit to children.

Last Modified: 8/29/2014
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