Are video games part of the physical education solution?

Magnus Health
February 13, 2013
0 Minute Read

Are video games part of the physical education solution?

Are all students at your school reaching the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day? Probably not. So what do we do? How do we get kids and teens interested in physical activity so they both enjoy it and make it a part of their everyday life? How do we boost student health at school?physical education

Thinking outside the box may help.

Todd Miller, of the Department of Exercise Science at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, and his team, conducted a study to determine if a less traditional route might be in order. The study, “Can E-Gaming Be Useful for Achieving Recommended Levels of Moderate-to-Vigorous-Intensity Physical Activity in Inner-City Children?” was published in Games for Health Journal, and recently covered by The Washington Post.

Miller focused on Francis-Stevens Education Campus students in grades third through eighth, throughout the 2010-2011 school year. Students were put into three situations including traditional physical education, as well as participation in two types of video “exergames”. The first exergame, Dance Dance Revolution, requires participants to step on arrows in order to mimic on-screen choreography, earning points for precision. The second exergame, Winds of Orbis, is story-driven and requires participants to run, jump, climb, and punch.

Findings revealed that younger children reached the recommended levels of vigorous activity via all three methods. However, as children aged, girls “barely met the criteria for moderate intensity,” regardless of the activity, and boys met appropriate levels, but only through traditional physical education. As girls aged, Miller found, “Preteen girls are more concerned with how they look. They don’t want to mess up their makeup.”

The other problem with exergames is the tendency for kids to slack off, working only for points instead of overall movement and exercise, meaning fewer calories are burned. On the bright side, kids found exergames to be a fun and less intimidating alternative to routine physical education and traditional sports.

So while the recommended level of vigorous exercise might not be reached, providing options to children and teens may be an important piece of the puzzle in getting them up off the couch and moving.

To learn more about managing student health in the age of technology, visit our comprehensive resource page.