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Electronic games and physical activity in children

Researchers

Professor Leon Straker, Professor Clare Pollock, Professor Jan Piek, Jemma Coleman, Jason Chua, Davin Gill, Rachel Collins, Deborah Metcalf, Dr. Anne Smith, Dr Amity Campbell, Dr Rebecca Abbott (U Qld), Professor Peter Davies (U Qld)

Description

Increasingly sedentary lifestyles has been blamed for the rising tide of childhood obesity internationally. Watching TV, using computers and playing electronic games are thought to be particularly important leisure activities and are related to being overweight. National guidelines now recommend not exceeding 2 hours of leisure time per day at these activities. However there is no experimental design study evidence that home access to electronic games reduces overall physical activity by children. A new generation of electronic games is now available which require movement to control the game – dance mats, PlayStation Eye, Wii and the recently released PlayStation Move and Xbox Kinect. There was limited evidence for how active children were when playing these games and no evidence on the impact of home access on overall physical activity levels. The aim of this project was to measures how active children were when playing electronic games in a laboratory and also assess the medium term impact on their overall physical activity levels.

Findings

Twenty children aged 9-12 years watched a DVD and played electronic games using traditional input devices and the Sony EyeToy active input device. Energy expenditure, heart rate, arm, trunk and leg movement and muscle activity were all much greater during EyeToy use. Traditional electronic games were essentially sedentary.

Sixty six children aged 9-12 had their home access to electronic games controlled for 6 months – two months each with no electronic games, traditional input electronic games and active input (EyeToy and dance mat) games. Their activity levels were assessed using Doubly Labelled Water, accelerometers and diaries. Data collection is ongoing.

Funding

National Health and Medical Research Council

Publications

Scholarly Journal – Refereed Article

Straker L., Abbott R., Piek J., Pollock C., Davies P., & Smith A. (2009)
Rationale, design and methods for a randomised and controlled trial to investigate whether home access to electronic games decreases children’s physical activity. BMC Public Health, 9, 212.

Straker L., Pollock C., Piek J., Abbott R., Skoss R., & Coleman J. (2009)
Active input provides more movement and muscle activity during electronic game playing by children. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction. 25(8), 713-728.

Straker L. & Abbott R. (2007)
Effect of screen based media on energy expenditure and heart rate in 9-12 year old children. Pediatric Exercise Science 19: 459-471.