Studies suggest interactive exergames (like Wii Fit or Just Dance, for example) can have a positive health impact, burning calories and getting sedentary gamers more active than traditional games.
In terms of calories burned, playing active video games is comparable to mild-to-moderate physical activity.
Exergames get kids’ muscles working and their heart rate up, which is definitely a good thing.
New exergames are being developed monthly in the pursuit to encourage users to voluntarily choose to be active, while also doing something engaging and fun.
Dr. Elizabeth Murray discusses exergaming and whether it's a viable alternative to other exercise routines.
RadioMD Presents:Healthy Children | Original Air Date: March 4, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
RadioMD. RadioMD.com. This is Healthy Children brought to you by the American Academy of Pediatrics on RadioMD.com. Here's Melanie Cole, MS.
MELANIE: Well, with so many video games out there, are there any that we can with little air bunnies consider "healthy" for our children? Are we, when we let them play the Wii or they're playing some of these Exergames, are they really getting any benefit out of it or is one video game pretty much the same as another?
My guest is Dr. Elizabeth Murray. She's a physician specializing in pediatric emergency medicine and a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Welcome to the show.
So, Dr. Murray, Exergaming: what is it? What really are the Exergames out there and do they really count as any exercise?
DR: MURRAY: So, Exergaming is something that popped up in the last few years where it's interactive, whether you're holding some type of wand or device in your hands or with the newer systems, they're actually able to watch the movement of your body and kind of have you as a character in the game whether you're playing tennis or golf or dancing. Dance, Dance, Revolution has been a popular one. It lets the player actually act out the event without just having that little simple controller with the buttons in your hand anymore and so I think there was a lot of hope that this was going to allow for an alternative means of exercise for kids whether they be in areas where they just don't have a lot of green spaces or maybe because of weather they can't necessarily get out and exercise. So, it's a cool idea and it definitely has its place for some people and some times, but it's not going to necessarily answer all the problems we need to have answered when it comes to childhood obesity and keeping our kids physically fit.
MELANIE: Okay. So, what's the message there? Do we allow a little and then shove them outside? Do you make them get up and really play the game the way it's intended? What are you seeing?
DR: MURRAY: Yes. Well, we know that about 25% or less of adolescents are actually meeting their active requirements for the day. They're getting less than 60 minutes of exercise every day. So, if they are going to do some type of Exergaming, you know simply holding that controller in your hand and pretending it's a tennis racquet while you're sitting there and just flicking wrists, that's not going to get you anything. So, you're right. You do need to stand up and be fully involved. This is something that if you want to get exercise from it, then you have to get your heart rate up and do all the other things that exercise is going to do for your body.
I do still consider it screen time, but it's a balance. If the child is able to go out and do a lot of activity in one day and maybe because of weather, another day, they can't get out and do as many things as they would like, this is something that can be done when done right to help keep the child active. The dancing games are great and actually a lot of people feel that the band games, like the Garage Band games are very, very good because the kids often really get into it and dance around as they're pretending to play the instruments. So, encourage the child to really be active while they're doing it, whether you're playing it with them or just getting them up, even if it requires just having a "no sitting while you're playing this game" rule. That can go a long way to getting the most bang for your buck when playing those games.
MELANIE: I really appreciate the fact that you say you consider this screen time. I find that interesting. So, this is screen time. It's not considered exercise or activity, play time. But, you know what? If Dance, Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero or any of these, they're up, they're jumping around. Is that part of that 2-hour limit?
DR: MURRAY: I think it can be, but I think you have to play it by ear and look at what's going on with the child, whether for the day or for the whole couple of days. You know, you can almost look at it like we look at nutrition. You know, every single day, perhaps your toddler's not going to eat all the best food for them, but over the course of the week, it balances out and I think the same is true here. Not all screen time is created equally. A child sitting in front of the TV and watching kind of a mindless cartoon is not going to be as good for them as if they're actively participating in a sports game or an adventure game that's not completely violent, but something where they can engage and have fun with their friends and has a social component to it is going to most likely be a little bit better for them. I think the caveat here is you just need to remember that this is not something that's guaranteed to replace regular exercise and activity.
MELANIE: Okay. So, you know, when we look at some of the best ones out there, what do you like?
DR: MURRAY: I like the ones that they actually...Like the kinetics of the one that can actually see where your whole body is moving. So, you actually have to use your whole body. Or, the dancing ones as well. So, again, the same thing. Everything is moving. You can't just cheat, if you will, and get away with just flicking your wrist and still winning the game.
MELANIE: No, and you know what? Kids come up with all kinds of things, Dr. Murray. They figure out that they...I mean, when my kids were really getting into Guitar Hero, they weren't standing up any more, they were lying back on the couch just cranking along, you know? And, playing tennis and even the golf and everything until I would come down and see them and be like, "Get up! If you're going to play this game, get up!" So, we have to limit the amount and instead of maybe playing the tennis game, why not just go and play some real tennis?
DR: MURRAY: Exactly. That would be a great thing if you can do it. Understandably, you can't always do it. We're coming out of the coldest February on record here in upstate New York, so we know that there's times when you're not going to necessarily be able to do it, but I think that's what's important about when parents think about screen time. If you engage with your children during that time, then that brings a whole new level of meaning to it. So, if you're there playing along with them and saying, "Hey, I'm standing up. Come on! You stand up, too, and let's really make this a fun competition or lets us play together as a team against the computer and see what we can do together." That'll help get them more engaged a little bit more and, plus, you're setting a good precedent of trying to be active as well. Then, when the weather gets better, when the seasons get better, you take the interest in that game that you were playing online and take it outside.
MELANIE: Well, I think that's an important point also is to be involved with your kids and making it a competition because kids really want to beat their parents at something like that.
DR: MURRAY: Exactly.
MELANIE: And they love to prove that they can. Now, what do you think about schools that are bringing some of these things into the gym and having the kids do this as part of their gym routine?
DR: MURRAY: It's an interesting question. Again, I think it depends on what else is going on. You know, is this a replacement for physical activity and physical education? It certainly is not, but, unfortunately, we have situations where we have schools that perhaps don't have the green space outside, perhaps don't have the safe environment outside where the kids can go outside and play on a regular basis, or, sometimes of the year, they just don't have the weather. So, if they can model the right way to do it, again, the standing up and really being active with it, that's, I think, going to be a good thing in the long run. It just can't totally replace all other types of physical activity.
MELANIE: Is there an age when you think, "No, you're three-years-old. You do not need to be playing a Wii golf game or Guitar Hero or any of these kind of games." What's your feeling on video games and age?
DR: MURRAY: Yes. I think you explained it just right. You have to be more to school age for the most part to even really be able to do these. There are some, depending on where you set the game up in your room, you have to be a certain height for some of them to play, but, you know, we always have the situation where maybe there's older brothers and sisters and the younger child wants to keep up and if they're having fun in a group of other kids, then it's probably going to be okay, but, in general, we like to wait until the older, school-age time so they can play these things. I think the other thing to remember, too, is be very careful because some of these games have components where there is an online community involved, so you always have to remember there's the potential for your children reaching out and talking to people and strangers online. It might not necessarily be that other 10-year-old gamer that they seem they are. So, you've got to make sure that your child has a certain level of maturity if they're potentially entering into that world of online gaming whether it be a traditional video game or something like an exercise game.
MELANIE: Rock on, Dr. Murray, because I did notice one day my son was tilting his box and talking into a headset and reading off the numbers on the back of his box. I said, "What are you doing?" He said this kid wanted to know what set he had or whatever and in 5 minutes, his set was down and it didn't work. This kid had stolen the number and we had to go through a lot with Sony trying to get that cleared up. So, he never did that again. Of course, he was about 7 and now he's about 14, but still. Kids need to be aware that the ones where you can communicate, where there's an online community, wow. Parents, you really, really need to be on top of it because these kids can do things in a matter of seconds.
You have about 30 seconds, Dr. Murray. Wrap it up for us on Exergaming and you thoughts on it.
DR: MURRAY: When you can, get out and get moving as a family and be outside. If you need to be inside and playing a game, again, just make sure they're up, they're active and you're engaging with them. This is a great opportunity to do something different and fun and perhaps start an interest in a sport that they can then go on and do in the traditional way. Have fun with it.
MELANIE: Have fun with it. Get involved. Make it a competition. Parents, play these games with your kids. If you're going to let them play them, play them with them. Make sure they can't just sit on the couch and flick their wrist around, that they get up, they get moving, they jump around and dance around because that's really the best way to get anything out of these. Otherwise, it's just a plain old video game.
You're listening to Healthy Children right here on RadioMD.
This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening and stay well.