Virtual exercise tools such as the Nintendo Wii claim to be the perfect solution for those who want to get fit and have fun, without leaving the comfort of their own home. But a new study has revealed that if you really want to stay fit, you're more likely to succeed if you turn off the TV.
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Researchers studied a group of overweight children for three months and found that those who used a Nintendo Wii to copy the movements of "real" sports like boxing and tennis, were no more active than those who played video games sitting on the couch.
Seventy eight overweight boys and girls were given Wii consoles and a selection of active or inactive games, and fitted with a gadget that recorded how much they moved. The results revealed that those who played the active games did no more exercise overall than those who played the inactive games.
Dr Tom Baranowki, one of the researchers on the study said, "we expected that playing the video games would in fact lead to a substantial increase in physical activity in the children.
"Frankly we were shocked by the complete lack of difference."
He speculated that it was possible that the children only put the minimum of effort into playing the active games, or that they compensated for their "workout" by doing less exercise later on.
While he admitted that the study was not conclusive, Dr Baranowki said that it "indicates that there's no public health benefit from having those active video games."
"These findings suggest that simply acquiring a new video games does not automatically lead to increased physical activity, thereby minimising the public health value of simply having active video games available for children to play," he added.
Other experts said that the movement device may not have recorded all the children's' movements, and that they may have burned extra calories in other ways, for example, punching and moving their arms around in a boxing game.
This might add up over time, but Dr Baranowski said that such limited amounts of movement would provide few health benefits.
Do you play active video games in order to increase your fitness? Do you think they work?
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