Video gaming to get kids physical
Most people, and especially parents, see video games as an activity that does not promote physical activity. But in an age of video game overload, two Human Kinetics and Recreation researchers are hoping to prove that video games may actually help get kids moving.
Drs Linda Rohr and Jeannette Byrne are exploring the impact of active video game (AVG) play on physical literacy, enjoyment and motivation for children who are at risk for early onset of non-transmissible diseases, metabolic conditions or chronic disease, and those who’ve had negative physical activity experiences.
Physical and Health Education Canada defines physical literacy as: Individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.
“Children who do not develop physical literacy are at risk of not engaging in regular physical activity (PA) throughout their lives. Without regular PA children and adults are at increased risk of chronic disease and other issues,” says Dr. Rohr. “Many children develop physical literacy through play, physical education and other daily activities. But some children encounter physical, sociological and psychological barriers to physical literacy development such as lack of motivation, competency or confidence.”
“Individuals with prior negative physical activity experiences typically do not engage in regular physical activity. Potentially however, if AVGs provide a positive activity experience, while improving physical literacy, motivation, enjoyment etc., that might break down some of those barriers,” adds Dr. Rohr.
One example of AVGs is Nintendo Wii, which utilizes motion sensors to allow the gamer to physically perform a variety of actions using a hand held controller and whole body movements. Dr. Rohr used this gaming system in a previous study where she looked at an AVG intervention on agility, balance and coordination. That study indicated that active video games do in fact impact psychomotor development in children. The current project is a follow up to that one, and includes more measures.
With five to 12 year old study recruits from Memorial’s Campus Child Care Centre, they’ll measure changes in cardiovascular fitness, self esteem, enjoyment levels of physical activity, intrinsic motivation and balance, agility, eye-hand coordination, which are all components of physical literacy.
“Regular physical activity has so many health, social and psychological benefits, including reduction in metabolic conditions, increased self-esteem, increased confidence, improved sleep patterns and improved academic performance, for example,” added Dr. Rohr. “AVGs may provide an opportunity to enhance physical literacy in a non-threatening environment, thereby overcoming some of the physical, social and psychological barriers.”