Childhood obesity has reached alarming levels worldwide (42 million children according to WHO figures) and is one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century. And the cause is clear: everything seems to indicate that boys and girls are moving less.
While a few years ago parks, athletic courts and outdoor activities dominated young people’s free time, they now spend it playing video games. This style of entertainment with attractive adventures, lights and colors, leads to constant battles with frustrated moms and dads….but are these battles necessary?
As parents and educators, we have the responsibility to limit the amount time children use the computer and play videos games. And we must ensure that “fun time” helps motivate children to live an active and healthy lifestyle.
A new trend: interactive video games
When we talk about video games, we generally refer to them as a type of sedentary leisure. When we refer to childhood obesity, there is always a reference to the hours children spend in front of the television or playing video games. The video game industry, aware of this negative connotation, launched a new product: interactive video games.
A study carried out by the University of Chester (UK) in 2013 concludes that, unlike other video games, interactive ones (those that encourage players to move their bodies by dancing, singing, jumping or practicing sports) get children and teenagers to get up from the sofa, leading to an increase in the amount of energy used.
The two games analyzed in the study were Dance Central and Kinect Sports: Boxing. It was observed that while playing these two video games, physical activity and energy expenditure increased, between 150 and 263%, respectively, on resting levels, and between 103 and 194% in comparison with games that are played from the couch.
Video games cannot fully replace physical activity
In a century where young people are connected 24/7, it is key that parents and educators learn to use technology to their advantage, using it to motivate and encourage children to get in shape and understand the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle.
However, Gasol Foundation believes that it is very important to note that active digital leisure can never act as a substitute for the 60 minutes of daily physical activity recommended for children.
We must remember that, in addition to the benefits of regular physical activity on health and child development, physical activities improve self-esteem, enhance social values & relationships with the environment. As a result, children who are physically fit can face physical and emotional challenges more effectively (from running to catch a bus to studying for an exam).