The Internet has been abuzz this week due to the surprising results from Tom Baranowski’s team at Baylor, which found that children, left to their own devices, get no more health benefit from exergames than from other videogames. The paper, Impact of an Active Video Game on Healthy Children’s Physical Activity, was published in the Feb. 27 issue of Pediatrics.
Many bloggers and the more sensational publications failed to read the fine print of the story which resulted in headlines such as “Wii Motion Gaming Won't Guarantee Better Fitness”, “Just because it's Wii, doesn't mean it's exercise,” and “Study rubbishes Nintendo health benefits”.
The take away from the Baylor study remains powerful. The health benefits and expectations for videogames lie not within the game itself but how one chooses to employ the resource. Medicine sitting on the shelf and untaken; un-followed post-surgery exercise regimens; ignored recommendations for smoking cessation; and exergames without assistance don’t achieve the expected outcomes -- not at the fault of the medication, prescription, advice, or game. So the question becomes, given the resources, how are exergames best supported to achieve the desired results? My sense is that we have not heard the last on this study and, hopefully, other researchers will build on the results of the Baylor study to better understand exergame potentials.
Meanwhile, we have received excellent feedback from our first issue of the Games for Health Journal. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, please visit the website to see the Games for Health Table of Contents and to subscribe.
Bill Ferguson, PhD