Contrary to Nintendo’s effort, video games won’t make your kids healthier, or at least that is what a recent study has shown. Nintendo’s Wii video game system and its corresponding games have been marketed to children and parents alike as a way to get kids off the couch and exercising as the United States battles an obesity epidemic, plaguing adults and children alike. In 2008, more than 1/3 of children and adolescents were overweight or obese and the Center for Disease Control estimates that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past thirty years.
To get a clearer picture of how, or if, the Wii system actually
influenced the amount of exercise its child users get, the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas gave Wii consoles and games to 78 overweight children between the ages of 9 and 12 and then tracked their physical activity. Half of the children were given a choice of an active game like, Dance Dance Revolution, and the other half were given a choice of sedentary games like Super Mario. At the mid-point of the study, the children were offered a second game from the same category as the first-active or inactive.
Accelerometers were used to track the children’s physical activity levels for 13 weeks. After the thirteen weeks of tracking, researchers found that the children playing active games got an average of 25 to 28 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity each day while children playing inactive games got an average of 26 to 29 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity each day, essentially disproving the theory that the Wii and its active games facilitate exercise. According to theoriginal Reuters article
, Nintendo was unavailable for comment.
While this study may very well prove the old adage, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”, exercise scientist, Jacob Barkley, told Reuters Health, “Maybe the Wii isn’t going to increase physical activity a whole heck of a lot, but it might increase caloric expenditure a bit more than a traditional sedentary video game, and if you do that on a daily basis that could have a cumulative effect that might be beneficial.”
But despite the ever present goal to reduce health care costs for employers and employees alike, statistical data from over the years indicates that pant sizes won’t be the only thing going up if we continue on our current trajectory. A graph included in theCDC obesity trend report shows a steady increase in the obesity population since the late 1980’s. In 2007, the CDC reported that 34% of the American population over the age of 20 suffered from obesity. Respectively, Mississippi, South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Michigan top the list of the most obese states in 2010, all weighing in with over 30% of the total state population suffering from some form of obesity. Raymond Fabius, chief medical officer of Thomson Reuters, is quoted in the press release, “Obesity continues to be a prevailing problem, one that will continue to plague employers and insurers alike until we find a way to stem this epidemic.”
A recent Thomson Reuters press release
identified an overweight and obese workforce as having the largest impact on employer health care spending. The Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index
takes into account each year how body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, tobacco use and alcohol use influence employer healthcare spending. Unhealthy behaviors among the US workforce cost employers a total of $623 each year, costs linked to obesity account for nearly 70% of that expenditure. Medical costs associated with obesity were reported as costing employers $425 per employee annually in 2010.
In a feeble attempt to stop the progress of what is widely considered an obesity epidemic, the government has set a national goal to lower the percentage of obese individuals in each state to under 15%. As of 2010, even the state with the lowest obesity percentage, Colorado
, missed the mark by 6%.
It appears that cutting health care costs may be as simple as shedding a few pounds…