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Publication #FAR2032

Active Video Games Don’t Up Kids’ Activity Levels1

Carol Church2

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If you have a child or teen in your home, you probably know that so-called active video games, such as those played with a Wii or Kinect console, have become incredibly popular. Such games often appeal to parents because they get kids up and moving.

But while these games can theoretically provide a work-out, real life is more complicated. A new study in the journal Pediatrics investigated whether acquiring an active gaming console and active games actually affected children’s exercise levels over a 13-week period. Seventy-eight children considered at risk for obesity were given new Wii consoles and games. Some received games that require users to be highly active, while others received passive games. Children’s activity levels and game play time were tracked using diaries and console data; for a portion of the study, children also wore a device that monitored their physical motion (Baranowski et al., 2012).

Although the children frequently used the consoles, those who received active games were actually no more active over the 13 weeks than those who’d received inactive ones. The researchers suggest that children may have made up for their active game-playing by being less physical at other times. Importantly, some children who received the active games also chose to purchase and play inactive games during the study (Baranowski et al., 2012).

These results suggest that active gaming is unlikely to increase fitness or activity levels in the absence of other changes. While there may be ways to use these enjoyable games to encourage exercise, simply acquiring them does not seem to be enough (Baranowski et al., 2012).

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Baranowski, T., Abdelsamad, D., Baranowski, J., O’Connor, T. M., Thompson, D., Barnett, A., Cerin, E., et al. (2012). Impact of an active video game on healthy children's physical activity. Pediatrics. Advance online publication. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-2050.



This document is FAR2032, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original broadcast date February 27, 2012, as program 1884. Published on EDIS March 2013. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Carol Church, writer, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.