Are active video games effective?
Dame Helen Mirren ... has a body many under-40s would envy. Photo: New Yorker Magazine
Active video games - known as "exergaming" - have experienced a boom in recent years thanks to programs like Dance Dance Revolution, Nintendo's Wii Fit, EA Sports Active and Sony PlayStation's Move systems.
The idea is that players will expend the same amount of energy as they would if they were playing the actual sport or doing the moonwalk, for example.
Recent studies have suggested that video games are not nearly as demanding as the physical activity they attempt to recreate."
But do the games have measurable health benefits?
Recent studies have suggested that video games are not nearly as demanding as the physical activity they attempt to recreate.
One study, published in the US journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, examined the energy expenditure of adults while playing active video games. Twelve men and women performed 68 activities from Wii Sports and Wii Fit Plus at a steady rate of at least eight minutes for each activity. Of the games tested, only 22 were classified as of moderate intensity, and none were regarded as vigorous.
Elizabeth Marsh, a sports scientist from Exercise Research Australia, says there is no way active video games can provide the same level of exercise as the physical activity they replicate.
"It's unlikely that a sustained heart rate essential for aerobic fitness benefits would be maintained," she says.
"Simulated sports are also less likely to engage the individual in an intensity of exercise required for health benefits in comparison to the actual sport."
She does concede, however, that if the games are used regularly, they may improve aerobic fitness, flexibility and balance.
Particular groups who may benefit from active video games include the elderly, disabled groups and sedentary individuals, and they can be helpful in engaging inactive children and adolescents. "
The games may also be particularly useful for the time-poor, those intimidated by a gym, and those requiring a safe environment," she says.
However, there are few instances where Marsh would recommend video games over the real thing.
"Only as a supplementary activity for the groups I mentioned," she says.
"For the recreationally active, I would recommend sustained exercise like swimming, cycling or running in almost all situations."
This column is of a general nature only. Please do not disregard seeing your GP for any condition mentioned.
From: Sunday Life