Does Removing Video Games Increase Physical Activity In Children? Kinda...

Video games. Do they hold children back from healthier, more physical types of play? Are kids living sedentary lifestyles that will doom them to lifelong obesity and giant wobbly thighs? This small Australian study attempts to separate the truth from the really rubbish headlines.

This study focused largely on three distinct groups: kids who had video games removed completely, kids who had access to video games and kids who had regular games replaced with physical video games. And would you believe it — the study claims that yes, removing video games from the house will result in a tiny increase in physical activity in children, but it turns out that actually replacing the video games with physically active video games (this study used a PlayStation 2 and the Eye Toy) has a similar, ever-so-slightly larger impact.

But it's worth mentioning that the numbers we're dealing with, the differences, are absolutely tiny. On average removing video games resulted in 5 minutes of extra physical activity per day. Replacing 'regular' games with physical games increased activity by six minutes per day.

So we're talking about miniscule differences here.

The conclusion of the study was that "replacing sedentary electronic games with active electronic games will provide at least as good an activity outcome and perhaps be easier for the parent and child to sustain" but I can't help but wonder if the whole situation doesn't really have a band-aid solution. It comes from a general attitude towards physical activity in general.

I've been lucky. I've always been into playing sport and being active and that was always encouraged in my family. I hope to pass that down to my son, but I imagine it must be difficult for the children of parents who don't do any kind of physical activity to tell their kids to go out and play. And that's not a judgement either — those same parents were probably part of the same cycle. It's difficult to break habits. I think that's the long and short of it. Simply taking video games out of the equation won't help anyone. Video games should just be part of a balanced lifestyle that includes some kind of physical activity.

Seems obvious, but difficult in practice I suppose.

I've uploaded the study here if you're interested in reading more.


Comments

    I play dodgeball and futsal once a week to keep active... Lately I've had no time to play game so my console is packed away for the moment and in no way have I replaced it with physical activity etc. I think sport/ physical activity and well being in general needs to be encouraged more! I actually DID think there's be a slowly bigger increase than what the study showed though!

    If you remove video games, kids will spend that time watching TV.

    It all comes down to parenting and allowing your kids to do this stuff in moderation.

    I think Mark's got it. Habit. Kids learn early what is 'normal'. If hanging out with the swimming club guys and girls at 5am every day and getting some MOTHERFUCKING FREEZING fresh and bracing chlorinated water in you is inflicted, er... encouraged for a kid when they're young, it doesn't seem weird or like a shock to the system.

    It becomes... just what you do. The people in the club can be cool and can kinda become role models (which, if you have a healthy Aussie Masters club can include folks well into their 70s and 80s), you learn healthy and cooperative competitiveness with themselves and others, and the virtue of overcoming some initial discomfort and shock for the benefit of that post-exercise endorphin high.

    Complaining is probably much more minimal than if you let a kid grow to a teenager on video games, then (when you turn 40, realize they're going to leave soon and your entire world needs to be turned upside down to match some 50s-inspired ideal) you radically change the family diet, spend more 'quality time' together, then take games away and replace it with dunking your hormone-addled adolescents (known for their agree-ability) in ice-water at unholy-o-clock.

    I have never been particularly sporty or active myself but when I was a kid I was often kicked outside to play with the dog or ride my bike or whatever when all I wanted to do was play Master System.

    These days I have a mild but regular exercise routine to counteract the time I spend in front of a screen for work and play - but I have to consciously think to do it each day.

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