Can Video Games Fix Childhood Obesity?

Michael Kasumovic is a post doctoral researcher at the University of New South Wales. He has a problem with obesity epidemic and, in particular, the fact that so many young children are overweight. His solution to this problem? Let more kids play video games.

We need solutions now if we are to help the youngest generation—the ones most at risk. But it is essential that any solution uses already ingrained activities, and most importantly, that it reinforces positive behaviours while being simple and enjoyable. Hence the idea we should let kids play more videogames.

It's a well-meaning article, and I'm never one to disagree with folks writing positive things about video games, but it seems a little naive to me. Kasumovic's reasoning for believing that more video games will help reduce obesity is based on anecdotal evidence — the fact that his four year old son worked up a bit of a sweat playing Fruit Ninja on Kinect.

This is all well and good and, having played a bit of Fruit Ninja Kinect, Michael is right — playing Fruit Ninja Kinect could help, and video games can be a good way to keep active, but I can't help but feel that the real issue with the obesity epidemic is diet. Burning a tiny amount of energy playing Fruit Ninja on Kinect is unlikely to make any real impact unless you play for a couple of hours every day!

In fact exercise alone, no matter what that exercise is, will make little impact if it isn't accompanied by a change what you eat.

I do agree with Kasumovic, however, that perhaps a perception change with video games and healthy is important. As a kid my parents would literally kick me out of the house if it was sunny outside. Their view was that video games could not be part of a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps they can. But only a part. I don't think it's possible for video game exercise to be the solution for obesity. At best it can be a tiny part of a solution.

Still, worth reading the full article if you have the time.

A big kid did it and faded away: videogames vs childhood obesity [The Conversation]


Comments

    There isn't one thing that can fix childhood obesity, getting fat is just a side effect of a modern lifestyle.

    With people being time poor, money poor, terrified of everything and with backyards shrinking or disappearing forever, sitting inside on the couch shovelling insta-crap into your mouth has become the new normal for a lot of people.

    If video games were the solution to childhood obesity I wouldn't be so fat :(

    "In fact exercise alone, no matter what that exercise is, will make little impact if it isn’t accompanied by a change what you eat."

    Very true. It all starts with diet change and portion control.

    There's something very unnerving about that kid sculpture btw..

    I think the article is very well written, particularly based on the authors perspective as a behavioural scientist (as opposed to, say an exercise physiologist). He offers a reasonable suggestion to change behaviours.

    Granted diet is important in weight management but so is exercise, however little or great. Increase exercise is a likely incentive to better eating (try and eat a whole pizza and go for a run).

    The article references studies that state exergaming has children working at 4METs. That sits an obese kid within the ACSM guidelines for recommended physical activity.

    To adhere to the guidelines a kid would need to keep at 4METs for 60mins/day. This is perhaps where exergaming falls down. Though I do remember only playing iPhone games for a few minutes some years ago. Now I play for hours. The incentive became greater (i.e. flight control [boring] Vs Order and Chaos [hello life?]) and it could be the same for kinect games.

    I don't see any need to reduce the opportunities provided by exergaming.

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