There has been increased research interest in the use of active video games (in which players physically interact with images onscreen) as a means to promote physical activity in children. The aim of this review was to assess active video games as a means of increasing energy expenditure and physical activity behavior in children. Studies were obtained from computerised searches of multiple electronic bibliographic databases. The last search was conducted in December 2008. Eleven studies focused on the quantification of the energy cost associated with playing active video games, and eight studies focused on the utility of active video games as an intervention to increase physical activity in children. Compared with traditional nonactive video games, active video games elicited greater energy expenditure, which was similar in intensity to mild to moderate intensity physical activity. The intervention studies indicate that active video games may have the potential to increase free-living physical activity and improve body composition in children; however, methodological limitations prevent definitive conclusions. Future research should focus on larger, methodologically sound intervention trials to provide definitive answers as to whether this technology is effective in promoting long-term physical activity in children.
Foley and Maddison are with the Clinical Trials Research Unit, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.