Active video games do not make children fitter or more physically active, new research shows.
Replacing traditional sedentary games with active ones or banning video games makes little difference to how physically active children are across the day, according to research presented at Sports Medicine Australia's be active 2014 conference in Canberra on Thursday.
"At the moment, the current technologies aren't really engaging enough for kids to enjoy playing them so much that they would rather play the active game rather than the sedentary game," Professor Leon Straker from Curtin University's School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science said.
"The idea is right but the technology just isn't good enough for kids to be really enthralled with the active games like they are with some of the sedentary games."
Professor Straker said lab studies had found active video games did increase physical activity levels, but field studies revealed children simply weren't interested in playing them in the "real world".
"(In the laboratory study), they certainly were using more muscles, more movement and burning more calories when playing the active games when compared to 'press button' games," he said.
The field study found children tended to do just five or six minutes more physical activity a day when they had no access to electronic games or used active video games.
Professor Straker said 56 children took part in the study where they spent two months with access to active video games at home, two months with traditional "sedentary" games at home and then the same amount of time with no games.
He said parents reported finding it easier to replace traditional video games with active games than banning video games in the home altogether.
"Electronic games are really important for a lot of children in their lives and we need to find ways of managing that so children still have enjoyable childhoods and play but don't be so sedentary that it is harming their mental and physical health," Professor Straker said.
He said physical activity which increased heart rate and breathing had really important mental and physical health benefits for children.
"If we can get active video games to be engaging that can be a really good way for children to get some of their physical activity each day," he said.
Professor Straker said traditional forms of physical activity were still the best way of getting children moving and he believed parents should limit how much time their children spent in front of screens.
"I don't want (active video games) to replace them running around outside or some of the time that they normally spend sitting around watching TV," he said.
"The press button video games need to be seen in the same category as watching TV."
Australian guidelines suggest school age children should not have more than two hours of screen time a day.
"Electronic games is part of watching tv, watching YouTube, spending time on social media on their computer, all of that sitting down in front of a screen.
"Parents should be talking to their children, setting up rules about what's acceptable in terms of the amount of time on all the screens, including electronic games."
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