Video Game Exercise: Does It Count Like The Real Thing?

"Exergames," or video games that incorporate some physical activity, are not a good replacement for exercise -- but they may be a useful gateway for sedentary people to move toward a more active lifestyle. That's the finding of researchers from Michigan State University.

“Some people are very enthusiastic about exergames. They think this will be the perfect solution to solve the problem of sedentary behavior. But it’s not that easy,” lead researcher Wei Peng, an assistant professor of telecommunication, information studies and media, said in a statement. She acknowledged that the video games might make a good first step, but were ultimately insufficient. “Eventually the goal is to help them get somewhat active and maybe move to real-life exercise.”

After reviewing 41 studies of exergame playing and rates of sedentary behavior, the researchers found that only three studies suggest any evidence of significantly increased physical activity among gamers.

Given that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend adults get a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity every day, Wii Bowling may not be a substantial enough workout to have a major impact on health.

But that doesn't mean that exergames have no use: for the elderly, just working on standing, balance and simple movements can have a positive health benefit, both physically and in terms of preventing cognitive decline.

The research appeared in Health Education and Behavior.

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