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Wii Gaming and Dance Dance Revolution Could Help Fight Obesity Epidemic: Study

Update Date: Oct 02, 2012 08:38 AM EDT

A new study reveals that teenagers who love games like Wii Sports and Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) could be reaching their recommended levels of physical activity better than those who do not indulge in such games.

The study by researchers at the University of Montreal is the first of its kind.

"Teenage exergamers - people who play video games that require physical activity - are most likely females who are stressed about their weight. On average, they play two 50 minute sessions per week," said study author Jennifer O'Loughlin of the university's Department of Social and Preventative Medicine, according to Medical Xpress. "As less than 15% of children and adolescents currently participate regularly in physical activity, we are pleased to report that exergaming can add to regular physical activity to attain physical activity guidelines."

According to current guidelines, youngsters should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity most days of the week.

For the study, the researchers studied the family background and videogame habits of 1,209 Montrealers aged between 14 and 19 years.

The teenagers involved in the study and their parents were asked to complete a survey that consisted of questions pertaining to their household income, drug use, body weight and education. These questions were asked in order to ascertain that that the gamers were not influenced by a particular socio-economic profile. Also, there were questions regarding they type of games played, where, the duration for which the gaems were played and with what intensity.

 The findings revealed that the most popular games played at home were Wii Sports (68%), Dance Dance Revolution (40%), Wii Fit Yoga (34%), and Boxing (Punchout; 15%) among the exergamers.

Also, WiiSports (26%) and Dance Dance Revolution (29%) were played very frequently at friends' homes.  Hardly any participants reported playing any of these games at school.

One important finding of the study was that unlike what has been shown by previous studies, the current study shows that girls are more likely to play exergames.

"Girls might be uncomfortable exercising at school because they feel judged and these games could be providing an alternative," O'Loughlin said, noting that the games are particularly popular amongst youth of both genders who are concerned about their size. "On the other hand, there could be something about the kind of social interaction that exergaming provides that appeals to them," Medical Xpress reported.

O'Loughlin hopes that exergaming could be helpful in addressing the obesity epidemic.

"Factors such as competitions, new consoles, multiplayer modes, and contact with other players via the Internet could improve participation," she said. "Additionally, the feasibility of exergaming in community centres or at school should be tested."

O'Loughlin said that there needs to be more studies  conducted in order to understand how this kind of physical activity could be increased and supported.

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