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The effect of active video games by ethnicity, sex and fitness: subgroup analysis from a randomised controlled trial

Louise Foley1, Yannan Jiang1, Cliona Ni Mhurchu1, Andrew Jull2, Harry Prapavessis3, Anthony Rodgers4 and Ralph Maddison1*

Author Affiliations

1 National Institute for Health Innovation, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand

2 School of Nursing, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand

3 School of Kinesiology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON N6A 5B9, Canada

4 The George Institute for Global Health, PO Box M201, Missenden Road, Sydney, NSW 2050, Australia

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2014, 11:46  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-11-46

Published: 3 April 2014



The prevention and treatment of childhood obesity is a key public health challenge. However, certain groups within populations have markedly different risk profiles for obesity and related health behaviours. Well-designed subgroup analysis can identify potential differential effects of obesity interventions, which may be important for reducing health inequalities. The study aim was to evaluate the consistency of the effects of active video games across important subgroups in a randomised controlled trial (RCT).


A two-arm, parallel RCT was conducted in overweight or obese children (n = 322; aged 10–14 years) to determine the effect of active video games on body composition. Statistically significant overall treatment effects favouring the intervention group were found for body mass index, body mass index z-score and percentage body fat at 24 weeks. For these outcomes, pre-specified subgroup analyses were conducted among important baseline demographic (ethnicity, sex) and prognostic (cardiovascular fitness) groups. No statistically significant interaction effects were found between the treatment and subgroup terms in the main regression model (p = 0.36 to 0.93), indicating a consistent treatment effect across these groups.


Preliminary evidence suggests an active video games intervention had a consistent positive effect on body composition among important subgroups. This may support the use of these games as a pragmatic public health intervention to displace sedentary behaviour with physical activity in young people.

Active video games; Overweight and obesity; Subgroup analysis