Dancing and boxing games on the Kinect system for Xbox 360 boosted energy expenditure by 103 percent to almost double that of traditional sedentary video games, Michael M. Morris, MSc, of the University of Chester, England, and colleagues found.
If children switched to these games for the average 1.9 hours they play video games each day, the effect on weight could be up to 0.7 lb per week, the group reported online in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.
“Although it is unlikely that active video game play can single-handedly provide the recommended amount of physical activity for children or expend the number of calories required to prevent or reverse the obesity epidemic, it appears from the results of this study that Kinect active game play can contribute to children’s physical activity levels and energy expenditure, at least in the short term,” they wrote.
The Kinect uses a webcam-style motion sensor to detect running, jumping, and arm movements without a handheld controller, which the researchers noted may promote more whole-body activity.
However, laboratory and center-based results like these may not actually translate to weight loss at home, they noted.
One study earlier this year showed no boost in physical activity levels over 12 weeks for kids given a Wii at home with active games versus sedentary games.
“If such virtual activities are to play a part in weight management interventions, they need to be adhered to long term,” Morris and colleagues wrote. “Whether children, particularly overweight children, are capable of sustaining active game play long enough and on a regular basis to elicit meaningful levels of physical activity, energy expenditure, and, potentially, weight loss are questionable.”
Their study included 18 adolescents ages 11 to 15 (mean body mass index 21 kg/m2) monitored for energy expenditure, heart rate, and oxygen uptake while playing a sedentary car racing video game and the Kinect games Dance Central and Sports Boxing for 15 minutes each.
Even though all the games were on their easiest settings, heart rate rose to 118 and 131 beats per minute with the two active games, respectively, which were 53 percent and 70 percent higher than resting and 34 percent and 48 percent higher than with the sedentary game.
While energy expenditure rose slightly, though significantly, from a mean of 1.2 kcal/min to 1.5 kcal/min while playing the car racing, the active games had a bigger effect.
The dancing game doubled the calories burned to 1.5 kcal/min, for a 150 percent increase over resting values and 103 percent over sedentary gaming. It was estimated to be equivalent to light intensity exercise, like ballroom dancing, bowling, or walking at 2 mph.
The boxing game burned 5.1 kcal/min, which was 263 percent more than at rest and 194 percent more than conventional gaming. This game reached the level of moderate-intensity activity, comparable to playing table tennis, volleyball, or walking at 3 mph.
Oxygen uptake showed a similar pattern.
The investigators acknowledged that the activity levels and energy expenditures of the active games didn’t compare to actually playing sports.
But the additional 91 kcal/min to 172 kcal/h could help “fill an energy gap that may be responsible for the increase in childhood obesity,” they pointed out.