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NewsBites February 2010 Issue

Some Active Video Games Break a Sweat

Can active video games such as those played with the motion-controlled Nintendo Wii give you enough of a workout to count toward the goal of 30 minutes of daily exercise? A new study (funded by Nintendo) offers a cautious “yes,” demonstrating that playing games included in the Wii Sports and Wii Fit packages can be the equivalent of walking on a treadmill at three miles an hour or faster. That’s the threshold for “moderate-intensity” activity, about 3 metabolic equivalents (METS), a measure of energy expenditure.

Motohiko Miyachi, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health and Nutrition in Tokyo, and colleagues put 12 healthy, normal-weight adults, ages 25 to 44, through the paces on Wii games in an airtight test chamber. By measuring changes in carbon dioxide in the room, researchers could estimate players’ energy use.

About a third of the Wii games tested reached the 3-METS level, including tennis, driving range, balance bridge and rowing squat. Boxing, running plus, single-leg reach, advanced step, Hula Hoop, push up and side plank required about 4 METS, while basic run topped 5 METS. Only one game—the Wii Fit Plus single-arm resistance activity, at 5.6 METS— approached the 6-METS threshold of “high-intensity” exercise.

Miyachi, who presented the findings at a meeting of the American Heart Association, said that active video games may offer an easy entry to higher levels of activity: “The biggest impact of physical activity is taking people from totally sedentary to the next lowest level, which is average fitness.” But he cautioned that such games should be only part of an overall activity plan.

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