Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

A Wii, a Mii, and a New Me? Testing the Effectiveness of Wii Exergames on Children's Enjoyment, Engagement, and Exertion in Physical Activity

Academic journal article International Journal of Child Health and Human Development

A Wii, a Mii, and a New Me? Testing the Effectiveness of Wii Exergames on Children's Enjoyment, Engagement, and Exertion in Physical Activity

Article excerpt

Introduction

Obesity and overweight populations have reached almost epidemic proportions in the United States. Physical inactivity has been noted as one of the most serious health concerns facing the United States. Childhood obesity specifically, has tripled in the past 30 years, and for children aged 6 through 11 years, obesity rates have increased from 6.5% to 19.6% in 2008 (1). Research has shown that when obesity is present in childhood, it often persists into adulthood (2).

One solution to this problem is increasing opportunities for physical activity. Physical activity has been noted as being an important tool for the prevention of obesity and other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, hypertension, and type II diabetes (3) . However, despite the health benefits of physical activity, only 38% of American adolescents engage in organized physical activity outside of school hours (4) . A 2009 survey noted that fewer than 20% of high school students engaged in physical activity requirements at the recommended level: 60 minutes per day (5). Given recent reports about physical education time being decreased in elementary and middle schools to focus more attention on academics, one has to wonder if children are getting much opportunity at all to participant in physical activity, exercise, or sport.

It should be noted that one of the primary factors that contributes to sedentary lifestyle is the amount of time spent in front of a digital screen. A recent survey by Nielsen found that adolescents between the ages of 6 and 11 years spend more than 28 viewing hours per week watching television and 2.5 hours playing video games (6). The research further reported that school- age children on average spend three hours a day watching television (6). According to a recent survey by the Pew Foundation, adolescents age 8 to 11 spend over 7 hours a day using media (e.g., television, music, video, video games etc). This time spent in mainly sedentary activities significantly outweighs the time available for activities that are less passive and sedentary. Many scholars have found a positive correlation between heavy television viewing and obesity (7,8). In considering the overall screen time adolescents accumulate on a daily basis, researchers must consider the widespread usage of media in areas of the home other than in family rooms.

While many video games are sedentary in nature, video game manufacturers introduced newer gaming devices (e.g., Wii, Kinect) that offer players opportunities to be more active through game play. A substantial body of research suggests that video game usage has a negative effect on players with regard to aggression, weight problems, and social isolation, but this body of research has not included exergames as a game category for analysis. Exergame playing may be beneficial for children and audiences by providing enjoyment while increasing energy expenditure. Nevertheless, the empirical investigation of the positive effects of exergames is scant if non-existent in the literature. Therefore, the current study seeks to bridge the gap by examining the relationship between exergame usage and perceived enjoyment and exertion in a population of children at-risk for obesity or overweight. Specifically, the present study investigates the effects of a series of Wii games varying by energy expenditure levels on children's enjoyment, engagement, and exertion. The current research represents data from a pilot study serving as a foundation for a much larger study that will target special populations and children already battling overweight and obesity. It also tests a health literacy and physical activity intervention program that could be implemented in schools, after-school centers, or at home to help children at-risk or overweight become more physically active. Thus, the researchers test the instructional models within each exercise game to see if child participants were able to engage in the exergames as much as they do using traditional but inactive video games. …

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