Are There Health Benefits to Active Video Games?
As the gaming industry currently stands, gone are the days of the height of the Wii and Dance Dance Revolution eras. However, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t further consider the benefits adding active video games back into our routines. Using an article called ‘Video games can have similar health effects to jogging’ by University of Bath as our guide, we will examine specifics behind this idea. Even with potential health benefits, as a disclaimer, please consult with a doctor or other health professional as to the best exercise routine for you and adding active video games to your lifestyle rather than seeing them as a complete replacement for traditional exercise.
A New Study
According to the article, “Active video games have similar positive health effects on the body as traditional exercises, such as jogging on a treadmill, according to a new study. The researchers say these games could be used by type 1 diabetics as a more enjoyable way to stay active and manage their condition.” As our founder, Bryan Reedy, happens to be a type 1 diabetic, this article is even more meaningful to us. Below is an outline of the study taken from the article:
- Researchers from Brazil and the UK had a randomized trial to study the physiological effects of ‘active’ video games in which the body must move to score points and be used as the control
- Cardiovascular effects, including heart rate, blood pressure, efficiency of oxygen consumption, endothelial function, and enjoyment levels were measured
- Participants were volunteer type 1 diabetics who played active video games or ran on a treadmill with moderate intensity
- Readings were taken immediately after, 30 minutes after, and 24 hours after these activities and this repeated in twice-weekly sessions for 3 weeks
Discussing the study’s conclusion, the article states, “Their results, published in Games for Health Journal, found that playing active video games have very similar physiological effects to the traditional treadmill exercising, and blood glucose levels dropped to safe levels following both types of exercise.” The article also added, “The main difference the researchers found was that participants found the video games much more motivating and enjoyable than traditional exercise.”
From our perspective, the physiological effects should be weighed more than the enjoyable factor. There are many forms of traditional exercise, and it is a bit disingenuous to compare an engaging video game to a potentially dull experience exercising on a treadmill and comparing to traditional exercise broadly. For example, a jog outdoors (or some other activity) on a crisp fall day with friends could narrow the enjoyable gap considerably. However, if the enjoyable factor encourages individuals to exercise more and get more out of their exercise, that’s great. The article did note that scoring points and being rewarded did encourage repetition and improvement in performance.
Looking at the specifics of the kinds of games the participants engaged with, the article stated that Kinect Adventures on Xbox were utilized and that this uses a camera to track movement. Further in the article, Dr. Jorge Brito-Gomes, a researcher at Universidade Federal do Vale do São Francisco, Brazil, said, “Playing exergames could help some diabetics in managing a lifelong condition” and that, “Gamifying exercise not only takes your mind off the exertion, but working towards rewards in the game or even competing against friends helps motivate you to keep coming back to do more.” The article also confirms our disclaimer by saying, “The researchers hope that whilst it’s not a direct replacement for traditional exercise, using exergames might encourage patients to do be active more often.” That said, while not a replacement for traditional exercise, we’re happy to hear that active gaming can be a positive force for type 1 diabetics and all gamers.
Jorge Luiz de Brito-Gomes, Denise Maria Martins Vancea, Rodrigo Cappato de Araújo, Pooya Soltani, Fernando José de Sá Pereira Guimarães, and Manoel da Cunha Costa (2021) ]“Cardiovascular and Enjoyment Comparisons after Active Videogame and Running in Type-1 Diabetics: A Randomized Crossover Trial”] (http://doi.org/10.1089/g4h.2020.0209) is published online ahead of print in Games for Health Journal (DOI: 10.1089/g4h.2020.0209).