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ARS Home » Plains Area » Grand Forks, North Dakota » Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center » Healthy Body Weight Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #374187

Research Project: Dietary and Physical Activity Guidance for Weight Loss and Maintenance

Location: Healthy Body Weight Research

Title: The influence of active video game play upon physical activity and screen-based activities in sedentary children

item UFHOLZ, KELSEY - Former ARS Employee
item FLACK, KYLE - Former ARS Employee
item Roemmich, James

Submitted to: Annals of Behavioral Medicine
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/12/2022
Publication Date: 6/14/2022
Citation: Ufholz, K., Flack, K., Roemmich, J.N. 2022. The influence of active video game play upon physical activity and screen-based activities in sedentary children. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 17. Article e0269057.

Interpretive Summary: Scientists at the Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center compared changes in how children chose to spend their time in physical activity vs. sedentary activities, particularly screen-based activities, when they start playing active video games. Sedentary children, aged 8-12, were provided with a video game system and a selection of active and sedentary video games, which they were instructed to play. Children were given a physical activity tracker for seven days and instructed to fill out a recall of the previous days’ activities for four days. Children wore the tracker and filled out the recalls once at baseline, once after 6 weeks of active video game play, and once after 4 weeks of follow-up. Moderate to intense physical activity did not change, while light physical activity decreased, and sedentary behavior increased slightly. Changes over time were not observed in active play, television, social activities, computer/phone use, or other hobbies. Time spent in sedentary video games decreased. Active video game play did not change based on the school year or season. Overall these results suggest that active video game play does not increase time children spend on screen-based devices or decrease time spent in moderate physical activity but may decrease time spent in light physical activity.

Technical Abstract: Technical Summary: Background: Few children meet physical activity recommendations, partly due to screen-based sedentary activities. Active video game (AVG) play produces light to moderate physical activity. Yet, providing children access to AVG does not increase physical activity, possibly because children who play AVG may tend towards sedentary screen-based activities. How multiple days of AVG play influences children’s choice of other activities is not yet known. Purpose: To examine how AVG influences children’s physical activity, sedentary screen-based activities, and other alternative activities. Methods: Sedentary children (N = 49) played AVG 3 times/week and sedentary video games (SVG) ad libitum for 6 weeks, followed by 4 weeks of ad libitum play of both AVG and SVG. Participants wore an activity monitor for 7 days and completed a 24-hour activity recall on 4 randomly selected days at baseline, week 6, and week 10. Results: AVG play increased with treatment (p < 0.001). Light activity and SVG play both decreased baseline to 10 weeks (p = 0.006) and 6 to 10 weeks (p = 0.017). Non-SVG sedentary behavior increased from baseline to 10 weeks (p = 0.005) and 6 to 10 weeks (p = 0.007). Changes over time were not observed in physical activity, or recall-measured active play, social activities, other hobbies, television or computer/phone use. Conclusion: AVG play did not change children’s objectively-measured physical activity or subjectively measured active play. SVG time was substituted with other sedentary behaviors. AVG did not increase time engaged in SVG or screen-based devices.