Put Down The Wii: ‘Active’ Video Games Don’t Help Kids Get Healthy

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kids playing wiiYou felt really excited when you picked up that Wii a couple years ago, didn’t you? Your kids were going to get to play video games and stay active at the same time. You’d buy the Wii Fit and find out how “old” you are. The whole family would get a work-out while they were playing a video game. We all had such high hopes for the Wii. And the xBox360 after it.

Well, the Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston has ruined your hopes and dreams. Or really, just Nintendo’s marketing scheme. The truth is that “active” video games do produce an increase in physical activity.

Unlike previous studies that had occurred in a lab where participants were encouraged to work up a sweat with the gaming console, Baylor’s research focused on what happened in individual homes. They gave out Wiis to various households with children over the median BMI for their age. And what they found was that the consoles, no matter what games were played, had little impact on overall health. Also, as anyone whose gotten a new toy knows, use dropped off in the weeks after receiving the Wii.

The New York Times outlines:

The Wii Fit was used an average of 22 minutes a day by everyone in the household in the first six weeks, but only four minutes a day in the second six weeks. At the end, health-related fitness measures were essentially unchanged.

Now, you can’t blame Nintendo for the fact that people don’t actually use their product to its fullest advantage. That’s like blaming Schwinn when someone doesn’t use a bike they were given. It’s obvious that you can get a physical workout using programs like Wii Fit. And they try to make that experience enjoyable. For it’s part, Nintendo said in a statement after the study was released.

 “While Nintendo does not make any health claims with active-play games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit Plus, we hope that the games encourage users to be more physically active. They are designed to get people up off the couch and to have fun.”

But even if it’s not Nintendo’s fault that their product doesn’t seem to make a difference in anyone’s health, there is still a lesson to be learned here. Video games aren’t enough. Incredibly smart technology still doesn’t replace getting outside for actual sports and activities.

I think this study is important because it proves that technological advances aren’t going to solve our serious issue with childhood obesity. The solution won’t come from medical professionals. It won’t be from any product on the market. The way we’re going to solve childhood obesity is with involved and active parenting. It’s going to come from moms and dads who take their kids outdoors from a young age, engaging them in physical play and games. It’s going to come from nutritious meals and fresh vegetables.

I don’t blame Nintendo, but I think that we should all remember that the Wii couldn’t really get kids off the couch. Let’s not be fooled next time around. Let’s not assume that there’s a saving grace out there just waiting to be found. Parents are the only ones who can save our kids from this threatening epidemic.

(Photo: Golden Pixels LLC/Shutterstock)