New report clarifies link between active video games and increased physical activity among children

The recent finding that access to active video games (AVGs) did not lead to increased physical activity among children was widely reported in the media, but often inaccurately. Here’s more detail from a press release from the Games for Life journal.

A new report that provides an accurate interpretation of those findings and a clear direction for future research on how to use AVGs to promote physical activity is published in Games for Health Journal. The article is available free on the Games for Health Journal website.

“Responsible journalists owe their readers and the authors of research papers a thorough review of the content and conclusions of the research,” says Games for Health Journal Editor-in-Chief Bill Ferguson, PhD. “We felt the researchers, practitioners, and public deserved clarification of the misreported findings, and Games for Health Journal is the appropriate forum in which to do so.”

In the article “Is Enhanced Physical Activity Possible Using Active Videogames?,” Tom Baranowski, PhD and coauthors from Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX) and Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) believe that AVGs may be a useful tool for promoting physical activity among children—an important goal in light of the growing obesity epidemic. Yet determining what types of AVG designs would be optimal, how they should be used, and under what conditions requires much research.

While a previous article by Baranowski et al. published in Pediatrics concluded that access by children 10-12 years of age to an AVG under naturalistic circumstances did not result in increased physical activity, numerous reports in the media misinterpreted this conclusion. The study did not question the potential for AVGs to impact physical activity levels in children. Rather, it emphasized the potential for different outcomes when introducing an AVG in a controlled laboratory setting versus in a more naturalistic home setting. Furthermore, it identified several characteristics of AVGs and other factors that could be modified to impact their usage and ability to affect the levels of physical activity.

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