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Friday, April 8, 2011

Can Video Games Improve Physical Fitness?

With the development of video game devices that detect body motions of players and use those motions to control games, the opportunity for turning the formerly sedentary activity of video gaming into physically active fun has greatly expanded. However, it is only recently that the exercise stimulus of such games has been scientifically evaluated. One such study, by Worley, Rogers, and Kraemer was recently reported in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 689-693, 2011).

Experimental Procedure
8 young women averaging 22 years of age were first tested for the maximal rate at which their bodies could process oxygen (VO2max). Then they played 2 different Nintendo Wii Fit video games (Hula and Step) at the beginner and intermediate levels for 10 minutes each. During each game session, each subject was connected to a metabolic cart that measured the rate of oxygen consumption.

The percentage of VO2max elicited during the video games ranged from 30.6% for the beginner level Step game to 39.4% for the intermediate level Hula game. These levels respectively corresponded to walking speeds of 2.5 mph and 3.6 mph, categorized as mild to moderate exercise.

Bottom Line
Video games that require physical activity have excellent potential for getting people who would not ordinarily exercise to do so. Nintendo’s Wii system involves a controller that is held in the hand and picks up movements using accelerometers. The XBOX game with the Kinect accessory is revolutionary in that it senses whole body movements without anything held in the hand or attached to the body. While the games in this study only elicited mild to moderate levels of exercise, the advanced game levels were not tested, probably because they require a lot of practice. Thus, the potential for higher exercise levels is certainly there. These games are a great way of getting people who are not attracted to sports or typical exercise routines but who like video games to become more physically active.

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