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Burn calories with video games

Last updated: December 2010

The next time you get in front of the TV, why not challenge your kids or grandkids to a video game? The American Heart Association has teamed with Nintendo to promote active versions like Wii Fit Plus and Wii Sports Resort for people of any age who don't get 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.

And two small studies suggest that video games—which use wireless, motion sensitive, handheld controllers to interact with your TV—can help burn calories and improve balance, which might help prevent falls.

Elizabeth Orsega-Smith, Ph.D., a professor of health behavior sciences at the University of Delaware, studied 24 people 66 to 74 and found that they burned an average of 103 calories during 30 minutes of Wii bowling and 70 calories playing Wii baseball. A second study, of 31 adults 61 to 89, found an improvement in balance after four weeks of playing video games that emphasize balance, such as skiing.

Our 2008 tests of the Wii Fit concluded that while the devices don't offer much of a workout to people who are already fit, they might motivate people to become more active. But caution is necessary. The devices might interfere with pacemakers and, like real sports, can cause injuries. And it's a good idea to talk with your doctor if you're middle-aged or older and just starting to exercise.

This article first appeared in the December 2010 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.

   

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