A new study suggests that active video games have no more positive effect upon children's fitness than inactive ones.
For the study, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas handed out Nintendo Wii consoles to 78 kids.
Half of them were given an "active" game like Wii Sports or Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party 3 (the name alone is a workout), the other half were given "inactive" games including Disney Sing-It Pop Hits and Super Mario Galaxy.
The research team, led by Tom Baranowski, monitored the children over 13 weeks, keeping tabs on their activity levels using an accelerometer-laden belt. To make sure the children wore the belt, they were promised that they could keep the Wii console after the study if they complied.
Same exercise level in both groups
The results of the test showed that the active group got an average of 25 to 28 minutes of moderate to vigorous excercise per day, compared to 26 to 29 minutes for the children in the inactive group,
Talking to Reuters Health, Baranowski said: "we expected that playing the video games would in fact lead to a substantial increase in physical activity in the children.
"Frankly we were shocked by the complete lack of difference.
"Our study indicates that there's no public health benefit from having those active video games."
As any seasoned Wii user knows, the route to a high score often involves being as efficient as possible with your motion, which often boils seemingly energetic moves into a mere flick of the wrist. Whether this is a factor in the study's surprising results, we don't know.
What we do know is that Kinect Dance Central is one hell of a workout – maybe Baranowski and team should try using that in their next study.