BALTIMORE – While video games take heat for contributing to a generation of sedentary youth, some types of games may help older adults become more physically active, according to a study presented today at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 57th Annual Meeting in Baltimore.
Researchers found that playing Nintendo’s Wii can help healthy, overweight seniors burn calories. A study team led by Elizabeth Orsega-Smith, Ph.D., placed ACTICAL accelerometers on the wrists of 24 participants with a body mass index of 26 to 39 (a BMI of 25-29.9 marks overweight; 30+ indicates obesity). The accelerometers measured caloric expenditure during 30-minute bouts of Wii baseball, tennis and team and individual bowling. The gamers, who ranged in age from 66 to 78, burned significantly more calories (20-176 calories) playing individual bowling compared with team bowling (18-89 calories). Those playing baseball burned from 22 to 144 calories, while tennis resulted in 17-72 calories expended.
“Few studies have investigated the use of active video games in aging populations or individuals with disabilities,” Orsega-Smith said. “Given that 40 percent of older-adult females and 30 of males ages 70 and above do not participate in any significant physical activity, this population faces growing health challenges. For otherwise sedentary people, games like the Wii offer an enjoyable way to become more active and more healthy.”
Orsega-Smith noted that playing games such as Wii generally burns fewer calories than playing the real-life game or sport. However, they offer an option for those who face challenges to becoming physically active. In addition, the social atmosphere and enjoyment may contribute to adherence to this type of activity.
“Wii playing may be a vehicle for physical activity participation, especially for those older adults who do not have access to a fitness facility or who may have physical limitations to their mobility,” She said. Participants in this study were independent, lived in communities and visited senior centers.
The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.