New generation active computer games stimulate greater energy expenditure than sedentary games, but are no substitute for playing real sports, according to a study in this week's Christmas issue of the BMJ.
Young people are currently recommended to take an hour of moderate to vigorous physical exercise each day, which should use at least three times as much energy as is used at rest. But many adolescents have mostly sedentary lifestyles.
Time spent in front of television and computer screens has been linked to physical inactivity and obesity.
The new generation of wireless based computer games is meant to stimulate greater interaction and movement during play, so researchers at Liverpool John Moore's University compared the energy expenditure of adolescents when playing sedentary and new generation active computer games.
Six boys and five girls aged 13-15 years were included in the study. All were a healthy weight, competent at sport and regularly played sedentary computer games.
Before the study, each participant practiced playing both the active and inactive games.
On the day of the study, participants played four computer games for 15 minutes each while wearing a monitoring device to record energy expenditure.
The participants first played on the inactive Project Gotham Racing 3 game (XBOX 360). After a five minute rest, they then played competitive bowling, tennis and boxing matches (Nintendo Wii Sports) for 15 minutes each with a five minute rest between sports. Total playing time for each child was 60 minutes.
Energy expenditure was increased by 60 kcal per hour during active compared with sedentary gaming.
However, energy expenditure during active gaming was much lower than authentic bowling, tennis and boxing, and was not intense enough to contribute towards the recommended amount of daily physical activity for children.
When translated to a typical week of computer play for these participants, active rather than passive gaming would increase total energy expenditure by less than 2%.