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Do Computer Games Lead to Obesity?

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 21 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Do Computer Games Lead To Obesity?

For a while, it seemed that you couldn’t open a book or newspaper, or turn on the television without yet another story about obese children, and Britain becoming a nation overweight of couch potatoes.

Children still love to play video games and computer games though, and so there has to be a way of allowing them to do what they enjoy without it harming their health.

How Popular are Computer and Video Games?

Globally, the sales of computer and video games have increased by a staggering £2.6billion during the past decade. In a recent study, it was found that at least 83% of people aged between 8 and 18 years of age in America have their own games console in their bedroom, and 70% of European children who were surveyed used electronic games of some description.

What Effects Does Being Inactive Have on Children?

It used to be too much TV time that was blamed for rising obesity levels, but now with the popularity of video and computer games, and the widespread availability of consoles that let you play and interact online without leaving your house, it’s now video games that seem to be public enemy number one.

It’s claimed that around a third of children in Britain are overweight or obese, according to official figures, and the BBC reported as far back as 2004 that the number of obese children in developed countries had doubled since 1982. Although much of this can be blamed on diet, a sedentary lifestyle is a contributing factor.

New Generation Games Consoles

Trying to combat the bad image of computer and video games isn’t easy, as they are always going to be associated with sitting in front of a screen. There’s not much that can be done to make a computer game more active – and all parents can really do to avoid a sedentary lifestyle is to try and limit their children’s time on the computer. However, some of the big names in games consoles are trying to get kids more active by developing entertainment systems such as the Wii which encourage movement and let players interact more.

Nintendo Wii have ‘sports’ games that let you jump up and down, throw a virtual javelin, or take it to a completely new level with Wii Fit and plug in a ‘balance board’ which you stand on and try different activities such as skiing, balance training and step aerobics.Other consoles have games that involve you using a mat to dance around on and burn off some energy. So the tide is at least turning in a healthy direction.

Recent Research

Making the most of your children’s love of video games has actually been proved to be beneficial by one recent study.

Researchers in the UK looked at a study from America which looked at children's attitudes to exercise, and what they enjoyed doing. The figures revealed a strong positive connection between the amount of time children spent on playing video games, and the number of children who were obese in every US state.

The research also showed that children were more likely to take to exercise if the exercise also involved a video game. Children were given the choice of ‘normal’ exercise options and interactive games that also involved exercise. The children only spent 10% of their activity time on child-based fitness equipment, while 60% was spent on identical fitness machines which were connected to a games console. The rest of the time they spent reading or playing games!

So, there does seem to be a way forward for video game addicted children – and with Wii Fit and other games consoles doing their best to introduce children to being active, hopefully a balance can be struck between traditional sit-down video games and more lively activities.

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