Exergaming is defined as "video games that also give you exercise". The classic exergaming console is the Nintendo Wii and has become hugely popular. The question is : can exergaming help children to get fit?
A study published by the British Medical Journal suggests that playing most of the Wii Sports games does not really have a high enough intensity , on average, to contribute significantly to a child's daily exercise requirements. However, it did say that it was obviously better than playing non-active computer games or resting (e.g. watching TV). So the implication here is that normal Exergaming should be counted as a bonus (and the Journal did say they should be 'encouraged' ) but in no way rely on it to give your child the necessary exercise they really need since compared to real sport or typical physical exercise the energy expenditure is far less.
Obviously children see Exergaming as fun so there is no harm in encouraging it. But beware : do not allow it to count towards your child's exercise requirements unless it is higher intensity.
If you want an Exergame to truly count towards child exercise requirements then it is advisable to look at higher intensity games such as Wii Boxing (on Wii Sports) or EA Sports Active or Dance Mat type games but read independent reviews from a trustworthy source and make sure they are suitable for children in the age range mentioned.
In terms of helping to lose weight, any form of exercise will contribute to this so if it added as an addition to existing routines then it could definitely help in this area. However, studies have shown that, in reality, children who exercise in this way tend to compensate by decreasing exercise in other areas so the overall change is often non-existent.
If you do choose to encourage your child to do some Exergaming then make sure
- it is appropriate for them
- it is fun
- they still get plenty of 'real world' exercise as well
How would I encourage my child to do Exergaming instead of watching TV?
- Keep it fun. As soon as it becomes a chore e.g. "we need to do 30minutes of exergaming" then it will be an uphill battle thereafter
- Kids like attention from Guardians so do it together! Or if they have siblings then ask them to play together.
- Try it out first! If your child has played an Exergame at a friend's home and likes it and has chosen it themselves then they are more likely to stick at it. But don't forget, children get bored easily so won't necessarily want to play the same thing time and time again unless they naturally love it or it has lots of different modes of operation.
- Set limits of TV/Computer/Tablet/iPhone time and stick to it.
- Ask your child to teach you how to play the Exergame. Kids love to teach parents!
- Give lots of praise after they've finished. Never criticise. Children who get praised like to get more. Criticised children just want to stop doing the offending item to stop the criticism. So keep it fun and positive.