Could Video Games the Key to Fixing Childhood Obesity?

On July 20th, a paper was published in the journal Pediatric Obesity by researchers at Louisiana State University about a study they had completed. In the paper, 46 overweight children, aged 10 to 12, were chosen and split into two groups. One group was given an Xbox 360, Kinect, and four games that require the Kinect while the other group was told to continue on with their usual routines. By the end of the study, they found that the group using the Kinect and “active-play” video games saw a three percent reduction in body mass index while the other group had a one percent increase.

In California alone, 31.2% of children between the ages 10 and 17 are considered overweight or obese. Nowadays, it seems like nearly everyone is glued to a screen, be it a television, computer, or smartphone. Perhaps this thinking is what brought this study to be, using video games, which are usually viewed as something causing health issues, to help kids lose weight. The use of the Kinect could cause some grief, however. While revolutionary at it’s launch, the Kinect has been said to be unreliable at times and difficult to use.

“As a gamer who’s earliest memories are with the Wii, I find them to be lacking in precision,”  said Jacob Sasaura, a Sacramento teen and video game enthusiast. “I believe that video game peripherals such as the Kinect can work for certain kinds of people. Some people might find a game like this to be quite exciting, finding a real sense of accomplishment and gratification as the screen shows them their latest health gains. However, the very same kind of stimulus that engages those people can seem childish and unnecessary to others. A video game’s effectiveness in terms of health is a case-by-case question.”

Nobody knows for certain if “active-play” video games can affect childhood obesity in the long run. Perhaps they could help for some time but the longevity of the program is still unknown. If this is being considered as one way to help battle childhood obesity, then we’re just going to have to see how effective it would really be in the long run.