Report: Video Games Can Sub for Outdoor Play Time
- By Dian Schaffhauser
The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children
participate in at least an hour of "moderate to vigorous" physical activity every day. Research from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville suggests that playing videogames could be a decent substitute for more standard outside
activities. The secret is to make sure those video games are the active variety.
The study, undertaken by the university's
Healthy Eating and Activity Laboratory, hooked up multiple accelerometers to 16 kids, ages five to eight. One of these devices (used to
measure motion) went on a hip; two others went on wrists. Then for 20 minutes the kids played River Rush, a game included on
Microsoft's Xbox 360 Kinect. In that game, the player
becomes the controller. The Kinect sensor tracks movement and modifies what's happening on the screen to reflect what the player is doing —
leaning one way or the other, squatting down, jumping up or some other motion.
Then for an equal amount of time the children were invited to play in an outdoor play area that included a playground, grass, pavement, a
climbing tree, hula hoops and balls. They could choose how they wanted to play. In either activity, they could stop and rest at any time.
Trained observers used a children's activity rating scale to record activity levels and estimate energy expenditure in minute-by-minute
counts. The researchers found that the accelerometer placed on the hip of the participants measured a higher percentage of moderate to
vigorous activity with the video game than with the outdoor play.
"Our study shows video games which wholly engage a child's body can be a source of physical activity," said Hollie Raynor, director of the
lab and an associate professor of nutrition, in a prepared statement. "Previous studies investigating active video games had not investigated
the energy expenditure of these games as compared to unstructured outdoor play. The purpose of the study was to compare energy expenditure to
unstructured outdoor play."
She wants to be clear, however, about one point: "We're not saying video games should replace outdoor play, but there are better choices
people can make when choosing the types of video games for their children."
The Lab is part of the Department of Nutrition, which is part of the
College of Education, Health & Human
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.