In the war against childhood obesity, video games have long been a target.
But new research by a Londoner suggests some video games might be used to shed pounds.
Harry Prapavessis, a professor of kinesiology at Western University, has partnered with former colleagues in New Zealand to publish research that found some video games may produce a benefit, at least in the short term.
Starting with a pool of obese and overweight kids, half were told to continue as they had before with video games but the others were given new game hardware to play games that required some physical activity.
The two groups were compared after 12 weeks and again after 24. While the status-quo kids gained some weight, those playing new, more active video games did not.
"There are a significant number of people who think screens and video games are an evil, a curse on our society," Prapavessis said Friday. "We're pragmatic. (Video games are) not going away. Why don't we help make them part of the solution?"
His research doesn't provide a clear answer: 322 kids were tracked for 24 weeks, and while their use of more active video games doubled halfway through, much of that gain was lost by week 24.
But as modest as those findings were, they still pushed the envelope of knowledge.
"This was by far the largest and longest clinical trial. It's a step in the right direction," he said.
The difference between the two groups of kids was modest, but Prapavessis, who also directs UWO's exercise and health psychology lab, thinks it's important to learn more.
In an ideal world, overweight kids would get more exercise with their peers. In reality, many are embarrassed to do so because of the way they look or perform, he said.
There's a potential downside to the use of active video games, the study showed. Those given new video hardware reduced their exercise away from the screen more than they increased their activity using the video games.
Prapavessis's research was published this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Read the complete story: The London Free Press
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