Active video games burn calories, boost heart rate

NEW YORK Mon Sep 8, 2008 1:42pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Kids who play the latest physically challenging video games expend energy at levels that might help protect them from becoming overweight and boost their heart health at the same time, according to a new study.

Children burn roughly four times as many calories per minute playing a physically active video game than playing a seated game and their heart rate is also much higher, report Robin R. Mellecker and Alison M. McManus of the Institute for Human Performance at University of Hong Kong in Pokfulam in the latest issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

These observations are "important because electronic entertainment is not going away," Dr. Russell R. Pate of the University of South Carolina, Columbia, wrote in a commentary in the journal.

"If we want to promote physical activity in the context of contemporary society, we will have to fight fire with fire. Physically active video gaming may be part of the antidote to the poisonous growth of sedentary entertainment," Pate said.

During a 25-minute gaming session, Mellecker and McManus measured heart rate and energy expenditure in 18 children who were about 9.6 years old, on average.

The children rested for 5 minutes, then played a seated computer bowling game, an active bowling game and an action/running game for 5 minutes each, with 5 minutes of rest between active games.

Compared with resting, children burned 39 percent more calories per minute during the seated game, 98 percent more during the active bowling game and a whopping 451 percent more during the action/running game. The action/running game involves a gaming mat that allows players to travel the streets of Hong Kong at a walk or a run, avoiding obstacles and stamping out ninjas.

During either of the action games, the children's heart rates were significantly higher than at rest -- 20 more beats per minute for active bowling game and 79 more beats per minute for the action/running game.

"The next step is to test whether active gaming interventions can provide sustainable increases in childhood physical activity," Mellecker and McManus say.

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, September 2008.

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