Active Video Games May Not Increase Physical Activity in Children

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A study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that children given “active” video games meant to encourage whole-body movement don’t necessarily increase physical activity.

Kids playing a Nintendo Wii

In the study, principal investigator Tom Baranowski of Baylor College of Medicine compared the activity of children given “traditional” video games (such as Mario Kart for Wii) to that of children given so-called “active” video games, such as Dance Dance Revolution. The “active” games are meant to get kids off the couch, and to encourage sports-like movement, including running in place and jumping. In reality, however, daily activity of children given the active games was no greater than that of children given traditional games.

Baranowski said that just giving children active video games wasn’t enough:

It’s not clear whether those in the study group were more active as a result of the video games but compensated by being less active later in the day or if they found a way to manipulate the instruments to minimize the amount of physical activity. It doesn’t appear that there’s any public health value to having active video games available in stores — simply having those active video games available on the shelf or at home doesn’t automatically lead to increased levels of physical activity in children.

It does appear that when children are specifically directed to play the “active” games in an active fashion, they do so, notes Baranowski, but many times, parents simply bring a new game home and leave the kids to their own devices. He suggests that instruction is therefore an important part of any health intervention program utilizing active gaming systems.

Source: Baylor College of Medicine


  1. Baranowski et al. Impact of an Active Video Game on Healthy Children’s Physical Activity. Pediatrics. 2012 Feb 27. [Epub ahead of print]
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About the Author

Walter Jessen, Ph.D. is a Data Scientist, Digital Biologist, and Knowledge Engineer. His primary focus is to build and support expert systems, including AI (artificial intelligence) and user-generated platforms, and to identify and develop methods to capture, organize, integrate, and make accessible company knowledge. His research interests include disease biology modeling and biomarker identification. He is also a Principal at Highlight Health Media, which publishes Highlight HEALTH, and lead writer at Highlight HEALTH.