The Truven Health Blog

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By Truven Staff

Wii Fit Not Putting the Fit in Fitness

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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.”
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