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'Exergames' Can Help Inactive Folks Get Moving: Study

FRIDAY, Aug. 10 (HealthDay News) -- Active video games, or "exergames," are not as good as actual exercise, but they can help sedentary people become more active, a new study suggests.

While not a cure-all for the nation's lack of physical activity, the researchers said the light-to-moderate exercise that active video games provide could encourage inactive people to keep moving even after they turn off the video game.

"For those not engaging in real-life exercise, this may be a good step toward this," study author Wei Peng, an assistant professor of telecommunication, information studies and media at Michigan State University, said in a university news release. "Eventually the goal is to help them get somewhat active and maybe move to real-life exercise."

In conducting the research, Peng and colleagues examined 41 studies on active video games. They found three games were effective in boosting people's level of physical activity. Most active video games, however, fell short of the 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous daily exercise recommended for adults, the investigators found.

"Some people are very enthusiastic about exergames," Peng said. "They think this will be the perfect solution to solve the problem of sedentary behavior. But it's not that easy."

Still, some people can benefit from less-intense activity, the study authors noted.

"The games do have the potential to be useful, especially for populations that are more suitable to light-to-moderate activity -- seniors, for example," Peng said.

Exergames are most effective when used during a structured exercise program, including those in rehab facilities or senior centers.

"Just giving the games to people may not be a good approach," Peng noted. "They may not use it or use it effectively. It's better if used in a structured program where there are more people participating."

The study findings were recently published online in the journal Health Education & Behavior.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about exercise and physical fitness.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Michigan State University, news release, Aug. 7, 2012

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