UnitedHealth Study Shows Sports Video Games Help Children lose Weight

Mar 3 2014, 5:10pm CST | by

How do you turn watching TV, a sedentary pastime linked to obesity, into a physical activity? Introduce sports video games.

A randomized, 16-week study shows that overweight children who expended energy by simulating bowling, soccer, or track and field,
lost more than two and a half times their body mass index, compared to those who only followed a weight loss program. (Age and sex are taken into account when measuring body fat in children). The results were published in JAMA Pediatrics today./>

UnitedHealth Group, the study’s sponsor, based the trial on a weight loss program it launched in 2011. Called JOIN for ME, it is available in six states. Under the guidance of a coach, children who are overweight or obese, attend weekly group sessions with their parents for 16 weeks at YMCAs, and Boys & Girls Clubs. Goals include tracking calories (sweets and fried foods are limited to two servings a day), physical activity, and screen time (two hours a day). After 16 weeks, they can opt to attend monthly sessions for an additional eight months.

A study published in Pediatrics in 2012 gave the program a small boost, with the percentage of overweight children dropping by 3.4
percentage points at 24 weeks./>

JOIN for ME borrows from the landmark Diabetes Prevention Program, conducted by the National Institutes of Health. It demonstrated that healthy eating and regular exercise along with counseling, were more effective than medication at preventing diabetes. The success of that study led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch a similar 16-week program for adults in partnership with the YMCA and UnitedHealth. “Why not use the same winning formula?” says Deneen Vojta, a pediatrician in charge of clinical affairs at UnitedHealth, and a principal investigator on the JOIN for ME study.

With video games increasingly pervasive, she, and other researchers, decided to find out whether adding a game to UnitedHealth’s weight loss program would nudge kids, ages 8 to 12, to be even more active. Of the 75 children in the study, 34 received Microsoft's Xbox 360 consoles with Kinnect, and two games–Kinnect Adventures and Kinnect Sports, with the second one given midway through the study.

Notably, children did not receive instructions on how long to use the games. Although Vojta doesn’t know whether they exercised the whole time in front of a screen, that group registered an additional 7.4 minutes a day in moderate to vigorous activity, which could translate into a yearly loss of four pounds of fat.

Despite promising results, issues include affordability for low-income families, and potential boredom with the games.

Vojta is considering offering JOIN for ME online, which could lower costs, and make it more widely available. “No one believes that gaming
is going to solve obesity,” she says.  “It’s a signal for the health care and gaming industries that although passive screen time contributed to obesity, it could contribute to a solution.”/>

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

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