Overweight and obese children lost weight and demonstrated a significant increase in physical activity after using a 16-week weight management program that incorporates active video gaming, according to a study which will be published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics.
Seventy five children, ages eight to 12, participated in the trial at their local YMCAs and schools in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Texas. Fifty five percent were female.
The study used UnitedHealth Group’s pediatric weight-management program, Join for Me. Half of the participants only used the Join For Me program and the other half also received Xbox 360 consoles with Kinect. The second group was provided with one active video game at their first session and a second game halfway through the program.
As part of Join for Me, both groups set physical activity goals, but because the researchers provided both groups with the same physical fitness instructions, the participants who received the Kinect did not receive additional instructions on how to use the games or how long to play each day.
“Considering that study participants were given no instructions related to gameplay suggests that if they were given specific goals for active gaming, the results could be even more impressive,” said Stewart Trost lead author of the JAMA Pediatrics article and professor in the School of Human Movement Studies Department at The University of Queensland in Australia in a statement.
Although all the youth in the program lost weight consistent with UnitedHealth Group’s previous study on Join for Me, those in the Kinect group saw a greater than 100 percent reduction in weight and Body Mass Index when compared to the first group. The group using Kinect did moderate-to-vigorous exercise 7.5 minutes more a day than the other group.
“We are pleased to partner with UnitedHealth Group and the academic medical community to use the Xbox 360 platform to make physical activity more fun, more natural, and more social for children, especially those with sedentary lifestyles,” Dennis Schmuland, chief health strategy officer for U.S. Health & Life Sciences at Microsoft said in a statement. “It is very promising to see that active gaming can help children become more physically active and reduce childhood obesity.”
Researchers have previously studied the effects of exercising with Kinect on the elderly as well.
A researcher with Dutch research firm TNO, Annerieke Heuvelink, worked with the Mayo Clinic at their Healthy Living Lab in Rochester, Minnesota to lead a pilot of 19 seniors through training and then offered the group unstructured access to exergames on Kinect. Although the sample size was very small, the study found that the top predictor of participation was frequency of already playing computer games and the next biggest predictor was engagement with any kind of game, even board games.