UnitedHealth Group has conducted a study on the effects of active video games on childhood obesity.
The 16-week program confirmed that children who played active video games on the Kinect lost more weight than their counterparts who were not provided with a Kinect system. According to the results, the kids who had a Kinect had an “increase of 7.5 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous activity.”
One of the girls from the study, 12-year-old Ravyn Hill, appreciated that the games she played were more “fun” than traditional exercise. The fun factor could contribute to helping kids stay active habitually.
Unfortunately, the study seems to have focused on weight loss and is not reporting other health factors that are more important, such as cardiovascular health.
Other studies have shown that weight loss should not be the main focus of such efforts, and that “behavior change as opposed to the weight loss itself may play a greater role in health improvement.”
That is to say, healthy eating and exercise will always be good for you but may not necessarily result in weight loss. And that’s okay. As Harriet Brown said in her New York Times article about obesity, it is possible that “we are so used to framing health issues in terms of obesity that we are overlooking other potential causes of disease.”
Fitness has, surprisingly, been a neglected factor in weight studies. “Research that does tease apart weight and fitness,” writes Brown, “shows that being fat and fit is better, healthwise, than being thin and unfit. Regular aerobic exercise may not lead to weight loss, but it does reduce fat in the liver, where it may do the most metabolic damage.” This information comes from a University of Sydney study.
With that in mind, it’s great that UnitedHealth Group is focusing on ways we can use technology to keep kids active. According to the parameters of the study, the kids weren’t instructed about how long they should play the games—they just did it on their own.
As we construct healthy lifestyles for the 21st century, it will be important to stay conscious of movement games and the benefits they can provide. Including a movement game in your regular regimen of physical activity is a good way to keep things fun and exciting—and kids will appreciate it.