There has been a lot of talk and excitement about the potential of active video games (or "exergames," as some like to call it) to take an active role in the fight against obesity in children and adults. While some active video games have been available for many years now (Dance Dance Revolution, or DDR, first appeared in arcades in 1999), the excitement didn't really start until the Wii came along and invaded everyone's home. In addition, people started noticing that anyone playing Wii boxing began sweating uncontrollably within minutes (or maybe that's just us.)
Recent "scientific studies" have shown that swinging your arms around like a monkey burns more calories than sitting completely still watching TV. A new study in Pediatrics adds to our collection of exergaming knowledge with some interesting comparisons.
The study compared energy expenditure (using indirect calorimetry) and various other physiologic parameters of children either walking on a treadmill (from ~2-5 km/hr), playing DDR at 2 intensity levels, playing Wii Bowling and finally playing Wii Boxing. The results show that DDR and wii boxing had the highest energy expenditures (13 kcal/hr and 12 kcal/hr respectively), which is comparable to "moderate-intensity walking."
The benefits of "exergaming" are pretty clear, but the whole concept relies on the entertainment value of the games involved. Games like Wii boxing are fun for a while, but just don't hold up in the long run. On the other hand, games that are marketed as pure exercise tools might appeal less to the very gamers we are trying to persuade into being active. What we need is a game that keeps you active, but is also fun, challenging, and has immense replay value. For example, one online survery for World of Warcraft showed that players play on average 21 to 22 hours a week. That's a lot of untapped potential for exergaming!