Interactive consoles get kids off the couch

LONDON Fri Dec 21, 2007 11:39am EST

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LONDON (Reuters) - Working up a sweat playing video games on Nintendo's interactive Wii console is no replacement for real exercise but at least it gets overweight children off the couch, according to British researchers.

Children using a Wii console burned off about 2 percent more energy over a week compared to those using a traditional system, wrote Gareth Stratton, a researcher at Liverpool John Moore's University, and colleagues, in the British Medical Journal.

The Wii allows users to thrust, wave, swing and twist its one-handed, motion-sensitive controller to direct the on-screen action and simulate real life moves such as bowling, hitting a tennis ball, or shooting a bow and arrow.

"The children were on their feet and they moved in all directions while performing basic motor control and fundamental movements skills that were not evident during seated gaming," the team wrote.

"Given the current prevalence of childhood overweight and obesity, such positive behaviors should be encouraged."

The researchers compared bowling, tennis and boxing games on the Wii to the Project Gotham Racing 3 game on Microsoft's XBOX 360 console where players simply work the controls with their fingers.

Participants, who included six boys and five girls aged 13-15, played four computer games for 15 minutes each while wearing a monitoring device to record how much energy they burned.

On the Wii, the children sweated off about 60 more calories per hour -- a far lower amount than if they had actually played the sport. The workout was also not intense enough to contribute toward the recommended amount of daily physical activity for children, the researchers said.

"Playing new generation active computer games uses significantly more energy than playing sedentary computer games but not as much as energy as playing the sport itself," the researchers said in the journal's Christmas edition.

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