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Exercise games and exergaming

Exergaming uses active video games to combine body movement with gaming skill. Players use body movements to control and play games. The idea is you can hula your way to health in your own living room, or dance, box or ski your way to fitness.

Exercise games are a popular choice on consoles such as the Xbox, PlayStation or Nintendo consoles.

There's the promise of a workout while playing and having fun, but do they work?

The British Heart Foundation's (BHF) National Centre at Loughborough University has been looking at whether they are a useful tool to increase physical activity, cut sedentary behaviour and help with rehabilitation.

Laboratory studies and observations carried out in home settings have found exergames can provide light-to-moderate intensity activity for both adults and children.

Researchers found exergames do provide an alternative to 'couch potato' type sedentary behaviours. However, exercise games only contribute a small amount to a person's daily moderate-to-vigorous physical activity needs.

One study suggested that exergaming has the potential to help children lose 2.5kg-6kg over a year by playing for 15-30 minutes a day. Children and young people have also reported enjoying exercise games more than inactive games and exercise on a treadmill.

For adults, a boxing game was shown to give a workout similar to a brisk walking pace. A greater increase in heart rate was experienced with 30 minutes on a running game compared with a treadmill 3.5 mph.

In older adults, exercise games are likely to provide light intensity activity. There's some evidence that in healthy older adults, dance games may help improve mental health and balance, and may be beneficial in rehabilitation after a fall.

Overall exercise games appear to burn less energy than real sport.

Figures from the American Council on Exercise show the potential for burning calories by exergaming:

 

Exergame

Calorie burn/minute

Calorie burn/30 minutes

Golf

3.1

93

Bowling

3.9

117

Baseball

4.5

135

Tennis

5.3

159

Boxing

7.2

216

 

The NHS says active games can be fun for all the family and can help get everyone moving. Although not providing a complete fitness solution, the NHS says exergaming can "kick start" a healthy lifestyle.

Overall, the British Heart Foundation says more high quality research is needed to study the potential of exergaming for long-term changes to levels of physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

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