Do video games make kids fat? Certainly they can if playing video games is all they do. Sitting on a couch or staring at a computer screen for hours requires very little physical effort and burns limited calories. So the equation is simple: if children spend most of their time playing video games, they will not get enough exercise and run a higher risk of becoming overweight.
However, it’s not quite as simple as more video-game play means more obesity. Research suggests that some video games actually encourage more involvement in sports. Kids who play sports-based video games tend to play more sports. Many of the new engaging games that use the Nintendo Wii-U PlayStation Move or Xbox Kinect can be very active, burn calories, and actually enhance fitness.
Recent studies indicate that video-game use does not necessarily mean that players are more often out of shape. Current research suggests that video games involving sports are more often played by children who already play them in real life. Many of these children use video games for further development of proficiency in various sports. Research also indicates that video games are less likely to lead to obesity than television viewing, as players are unable to eat while playing most games.
Fortunately many games are now being designed to encourage healthy eating habits, increase exercise, and combat diabetes. These games provide many teaching opportunities for habits that can improve health and fitness.
We still have much to learn about the impact of video games and obesity. To learn more about this important topic, check out these straightforward, scholarly articles describing the current state of the science. You can also link to our full bibliography or go to the Center for Media and Child Health Research base for more extensive information on the science of video games and children.
Golden, D., & Getchell, N. (2017). Physical activity levels in children with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder when playing active and sedentary xbox kinect video games. Games for Health Journal, 6(2), 97-103 (Golden et al., 2017)
“[Compares] physical activity during bouts of sedentary video gaming (SVG), active video gaming (AVG), and paced walking in children with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to determine the effectiveness of AVG in providing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.”
Although many people think video games are solely responsible for childhood obesity, this article sheds light on other factors that can contribute to this problem and discusses instances when video games can actually have the opposite effect on obesity.
Mhurchu, C. N., Maddison, R., Yannan, J., Jull, A., Prapavessis, H., & Rodgers, A. (2008). Couch potatoes to jumping beans: A pilot study of the effect of active video games on physical activity in children. International Journal Of Behavioral Nutrition & Physical Activity, 51-5.
Do video games affect physical activity levels? A current research study done on 20 children found that video games may actually play a positive role when it comes to keeping kids active.
In the article, the authors compare the benefits of exercising using active video games and traditional forms of exercise in order to note physiological and psychological responses.
This article details a research study that did not find a relationship between video games and obesity, challenging popular assumptions about technology and the negative effects it is thought to have on children and adolescents.
This current study concludes that there is a relationship between weight and the amount of time spent playing video games. Researchers examined childhood obesity, technology usage, and participation in activities and found that the more video games children played, the more they weighed.