New study finds active videogaming (‘exergaming’) is good for children's health

A new study by researchers from Swansea University, the University of Western Australia (UWA), and Liverpool John Moores University has found that high-intensity active video games are good for children's health.

Gareth StrattonThe study, published this week in The Journal of Paediatrics, is led by Drs Louise Naylor and Michael Rosenberg from UWA's School of Sport Science Exercise and Health, with co-author Gareth Stratton (pictured), Professor of Paediatric Exercise Science and Director of the Applied-Sports Technology Exercise and Medicine (A-STEM) Research Centre, at Swansea University’s College of Engineering.

While other studies have assessed children's energy expenditure and physical activity while playing active video games, this is the first study to measure the direct health benefits of high-intensity gaming on children's arteries.

The finding is good news for parents and teachers concerned about high levels of obesity and low levels of physical activity among children.  Less than 50 per cent of primary school-aged boys and less than 28 per cent of girls meet the minimum levels of physical activity required to maintain health.

The research team evaluated 15 children aged from nine to 11 years, to determine whether high-intensity and low-intensity active video gaming – also known as exergaming – were as good for vascular function and health.

They compared children's energy expenditure and heart rate when the children played both low-intensity and high-intensity active console video games and a session on a treadmill.

The team found that children playing a high-intensity video game used as much energy as if they were exercising moderately, and that high-intensity gaming improved children's cardiovascular health and was a good form of activity for children to use to gain long-term and sustained health benefits.

Importantly, the children who participated in the study said they enjoyed playing both low and high-intensity games and were likely to continue playing them.

Dr Louise Naylor of UWA said: "Our research supports the growing notion that high-intensity activity is good for children and raises the potential for the inclusion of intensive exergames in the recommendations to improve health in children."

Professor Gareth Stratton added: “This work builds upon the extensive work into exergaming that we have developed over the past five years. The unique message is that playing active computer games helps keep children's blood vessels fit and healthy."