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Couch potatoes to jumping beans: A pilot study of the effect of active video games on physical activity in children

Cliona Ni Mhurchu1*, Ralph Maddison1, Yannan Jiang1, Andrew Jull1, Harry Prapavessis2 and Anthony Rodgers1

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

2 Department of Kinesiology, University of Western Ontario, London, Canada

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International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2008, 5:8  doi:10.1186/1479-5868-5-8

Published: 7 February 2008


The primary objective of this pilot study was to evaluate the effect of active video games on children's physical activity levels.

Twenty children (mean ± SD age = 12 ± 1.5 years; 40% female) were randomised to receive either an active video game upgrade package or to a control group (no intervention). Effects on physical activity over the 12-week intervention period were measured using objective (Actigraph accelerometer) and subjective (Physical Activity Questionnaire for Children [PAQ-C]) measures. An activity log was used to estimate time spent playing active and non-active video games.

Children in the intervention group spent less mean time over the total 12-week intervention period playing all video games compared to those in the control group (54 versus 98 minutes/day [difference = -44 minutes/day, 95% CI [-92, 2]], p = 0.06). Average time spent in all physical activities measured with an accelerometer was higher in the active video game intervention group compared to the control group (difference at 6 weeks = 194 counts/min, p = 0.04, and at 12 weeks = 48 counts/min, p = 0.06).

This preliminary study suggests that playing active video games on a regular basis may have positive effects on children's overall physical activity levels. Further research is needed to confirm if playing these games over a longer period of time could also have positive effects on children's body weight and body mass index.

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