How consoles help children lose weight

XAVIER SMALL
Last updated 13:49, March 25 2014
GAME ON: From the backyard to the big screen, consoles and computer games may be helping reduce obesity in children.
Fairfax

GAME ON: From the backyard to the big screen, consoles and computer games may be helping reduce obesity in children.

Gone are the days when children would spend hours outside in the sun playing a game of backyard cricket, climbing trees and running amok.

Instead, they now spend much of their lives in air-conditioned comfort in the living room.

But as long as they are running, hitting, bouncing and stretching in front of a camera attached to a console, that may not be such a bad thing.

Research by University of Queensland Professor Stewart Trost suggests consoles and computer game driven exercise may be the future of physical activity.

Professor Trost is working at the UQ Centre for Research on Exercise, Physical activity and Health, working on a trial to address the childhood obesity epidemic.

“That epidemic is taking a toll on children's health and the nation's resources,” he said.

Professor Trost set out to design a trial which would evaluate the effects of active video gaming on physical activity and weight loss in children.

He arranged for the youngsters to take part in an 'evidence based' weight management program delivered in the community.

The trial used consoles such as Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii that get people actively participating in virtual games of tennis and golf as well as running and stretching exercises.

He said the computer games had increased physical activity and had also prompted an increase in weight loss among obese children.

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A community-based paediatric weight management programme was introduced into YMCAs and schools.

Seventy-five overweight or obese children were given a gaming console with two active games, and a motion capture device that was used to record the activity levels whilst playing all games.

“We measured daily moderate-to-vigorous and vigorous physical activity using an accelerometer-based motion sensor,” Professor Trost said.

The programme ran over 16 weeks, and researchers also observed other children who were participating in a non-gaming regime.

The results were unexpected.

“Both groups saw a decline in relative weight and body mass index percentile.

"However the group that participated in active gaming observed twice the reduction in relative weight and body mass index scores than the non-gaming group,” he said.

Effectively, the children who were a part of the video console weight loss programme had double the weight loss of the normal weight management program participants.

“There was no change in physical activity among the children who participated only in the weight management program without active video games,” he said.

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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