Active video games may improve pediatric weight management programs

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1. Participants in a comprehensive family-based pediatric weight management program who were randomly provided with active video games lost more weight than their peers in the weight management program who were not provided with active video games. 

2. Participants who were randomly provided with active video games had more moderate-to-vigorous and vigorous physical activity than their peers in the pediatric weight management program. 

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good) 

Study Rundown: The prevalence of obesity among children in the United States has nearly tripled over the past three decades. Childhood obesity is associated with a greater risk of adulthood obesity as well as several serious short term health problems. Though there is considerable attention given to the dietary risk factors and physical inactivity associated with obesity, little is known about how best to promote healthier habits among obese children.

The results of this study indicate that the incorporation of active video games may improve the effects of pediatric weight management programs, and the authors suggest the potential for translating these effects to other settings and populations. However, this study does have its limitations. First, the study only followed participants over 16 weeks, and longer follow-up periods are required to assess the long term effects of active video games on childhood weight loss. Additionally, the results may be biased by a number of potential factors, and the costs associated with active video games may provide a significant barrier for low-income families.

Click to read the study in JAMA Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a scalable, community-based treatment of childhood obesity

In-Depth [randomized controlled trial]: This multi-site group-randomized clinical trial assessed the effects of adding active video games to pediatric weight management programs. Eligible participants included 75 children between the ages of 8 and 12 with a BMI above the 85th percentile, whose parents or guardians were willing to participate in weekly behavioral sessions. These participants were randomized to either the program only (PO) or program and active game (P+AG) conditions. The program consisted of weight management program that provided weekly behavioral interventions. Participants in P+AG group were provided active video game equipment at the beginning of the study, but were not explicitly instructed about how to use the video games.

Of the participants that completed the study, those in the P+AG group were found to have a greater reduction in their mean BMI z-score (-0.25, p=0.03) than those in the PO group (-0.11, p=0.03), with a between group difference of 0.14 (p-value 0.04). Participants in the P+AG group showed a larger increase in their average daily duration of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (7.4 additional minutes), whereas participants in the PO group actually had less moderate-to-vigorous daily physical activity at the end of the study than they did at the beginning (0.6 fewer minutes).

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