Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Active Gaming

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Movement Experience for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
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Active gaming, or exergaming, involves the combination of movement-based video games and interactive technology as a form of physical activity (Lanningham-Foster et al., 2009). The rise of childhood obesity and the association with increased indoor screen time has created an urgent demand for a solution to the declining physical activity trend (Pate, 2008). A variety of activity promoting games such as: the Nintendo Wii Fit, PlayStation’s EyeToy, Xbox 360, and others have attempted to achieve the goal of improving health in children (Taylor et al., 2011). Physical activity guidelines call for children to accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity daily for health benefits (Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, 2015). Video games are a preferred leisure activity to many children and can be used as a tool to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior (Warburton, 2013). It is also a favorable means because active gaming settings can be performed in a wide range of settings including: schools, homes, hospitals, and community centers.

Types of Active Gaming

The Nintendo Wii

The Nintendo Wii console allows the player to control game play through an on screen avatar called a “Mii.” Player movement is translated to virtual movements by the Wii remote, numchuck, or balance board. All movements are picked up by motion sensing detection received by the sensor bar (Nintendo, 2014). It also provides audio and vibration feedback to the player. Some examples of Wii Games include:

  • Wii Sports: boxing, tennis, golf, bowling, baseball
  • Wii Fit: series of games testing balance, strength, and coordination

The PlayStation's EyeToy

The PlayStation’s EyeToy uses a color video camera, similar to a webcam, for gesture recognition during gameplay (Sony Computer Entertainment America, 2014). The advantage of the EyeToy is that it allows detection of full body movements without distraction or sole control by a handheld device. Some examples of EyeToy games include:

  • EyeToy Play: comprised of mini games such as: Beat Freak, Boxing Chump, and Boogie Down
  • EyeToy Kinetic: an exercise program delivered through a game in collaboration with Nike Motionworks to help the player improve fitness and health

The Xbox 360

The Xbox 360 also utilizes a high tech webcam that detects the player’s motion to be transferred into virtual movements (Microsoft, 2015). Examples of these active games include:

  • Just Dance: through the use of music and dance the game is based on player’s mimicking the moves of the virtual avatar online

Health Benefits

Video gaming has often been considered the key rival for outdoor-based physical activity, though technological advancements have utilized this popular sedentary behavior and produced active gaming as a means of exercise (Warburton, 2013). Active gaming has the potential to reach intensities and activity levels that would produce the health benefits of traditional physical activity.

Broadly, these benefits include reduced risk for premature mortality, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and increase in overall health and well being (Warburton, 2013). In particular, active gaming has been shown to:

  • Lead to greater exercise enjoyment and adherence
  • Distract from fatigue and reduce perception of activity intensity
  • Improve body composition
  • Benefit cardiovascular health by improvements in VO2 max
  • Reduce systolic blood pressure by 9mmHg and thereby reduce the risk of stroke and coronary artery disease
  • Increase energy expenditure compared to traditional video games (if a child played 8 hours/ week, a child participating in Wii Boxing would burn 1990 calories on average, compared to the 652 calories playing a sedentary game)

Active gaming can ultimately lead to marked physiological changes and an effective means to encourage children to engage in healthy behaviors.

Rehabilitation and Exercise

Active video gaming requires player motion, coordination, and sometimes weight bearing to control game play. The physical aspect of active gaming offers health professionals and patients potential benefits to complement traditional exercise and therapy (Taylor et al., 2011).

Use for Rehabilitation in a Medical Setting

A strong advantage of using active gaming in rehabilitation training is that it an effective distraction that deters focus away from the impairment and concentrates focus on to the video game. Consequently, active gaming promotes adherence and completion of exercise prescriptions that can supplement and replace some mundane and traditional rehabilitation routines (Taylor et al., 2011).

Though popular active games are not tailored for rehabilitation purposes, improvements in balance, strength, and flexibility have been observed. Future active games should be developed to cater to the specific needs of patients. Ongoing research still needs to be conducted to test the long-term implications of active gaming.

Importantly, engaging in active gaming enhanced the patient’s social interaction with others and allowed them to reconnect with their environments. It gave patients a sense of competition but also motivation to win—and thereby working harder to recover from any impairment (Taylor et al., 2011). Specifically, children are more eager to participate in rehabilitation exercises if it includes active gaming and may even look forward to visiting the physiotherapist!

Promotion of Fundamental Movement Skills

Fundamental movement skills (FMS) are the foundational basis of physical activity that directly determines successful and skilled participation in sports. Screen based behavior in children will always be a constant in the 21st century, so perhaps integrating video gaming with FMS may promote the child to acquire beneficial changes to movement skill and overall health. The problem with active video gaming, as it stands now, is that it limits play indoors, which restricts the child from exploring and benefiting from opportunities, such as FMS development, with outdoor physical activity. Barnett, et al. (2013) identifies two ways that children can potentially development FMS while active gaming.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality game play utilizes smart phones and overlays synthetic visual content over the real world. This advancement of active video gaming allows the player to track performance over a period of time, outdoor play, and encourages informal physical activity on an ongoing basis. For example, children can play augmented reality soccer while using their parent’s smartphone. This will allow them to interact with the outdoors and literally kick a virtual soccer ball through the use of the camera.

Location Based Gaming

Location based gaming utilizes a GPS system that tracks the player’s movement. It only allows progression of the game with physical activity and FMS movement by the player. This mobile game (with the installment of an accelerometer) may provide direct feed of the parameters of physical activity.

Though these new and innovative active gaming alternatives seem to promote the development of FMS, further research needs to be conducted.

Strategies for Physical Activity Participation

It is well known and fundamental that any physical activity or exercise results in higher energy expenditure compared to sedentary behavior. The electronic entertainment industry has promoted children to stay inside and participate in sedentary activities when they are bored, compared to the earlier era where children would go outside and play for entertainment.


Electronic entertainment is an inevitable factor embedded in today’s culture, but perhaps the parent can reverse the preferred sedentary behavior. First, parents have the power to limit children’s screen time, or television viewing, to less than 2 hours per day (Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, 2015). This will encourage children to change activities within the house and perhaps be encouraged to play outside. Parent-child play is also an effective strategy of increasing physical activity in children (Barnett et al., 2013). Simply “playing catch” with the child can encourage the development of FMS. However, in cases where parents are time restricted or come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, active gaming must be highly available and affordable (Pate, 2008).


Active video gaming does not exist in the majority of traditional Canadian elementary schools in Canada. The best strategy to increase movement experiences in young children is to educate them at an early age to develop regular physical activity routine. Playtime during recess, lunch, physical education class, and afterschool outdoors should perhaps be mandatory (Alhassan et al., 2011). Resources are also important, access to equipment such as balls, Frisbees, and racquets may enhance the child’s opportunity to participate in sport and develop FMS.

Video Game Industry

The video gaming industry possesses a lot of power and social responsibility toward providing active video gaming for children who may prefer to be entertained indoors. Perhaps when the gaming industry is more sensitized to their potential role as advocators for children’s health; they may develop games that not only attract uses but also sustain their interest long term (Pate, 2008). Optimistically, children will participate in active gaming long term and not intermittently. In effect, increase energy expenditure in children would linearly increase rather than spike.


Alhassan, S., Sirard, J.R., Robinson, T.N. (2011). The effects of increasing outdoor play time on physical activity in Latino preschool students. International Journal of Pediatric Obesity,3, 153-158. doi: 10.1080/17477160701520108

Barnett, L.M., Bangay, S., McKenzie, S., Ridgers, N.D. (2013). Activity gaming as a mechanism to promote physical activity and fundamental movement skill in children. Frontiers in Public Health, 74, 1-3. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2013.00074 Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. (2015). Canadian physical activity guidelines and Canadian Sedentary Behavior Guidelines. Retrieved from

Lanninghammer-Foster, L., Foster, R.C., McCrady, S.K., Jensen, T.B., Mitre, N., & Levine, J.S. (2009). Activity-promoting video games and increased energy expenditure. The Journal of Pediatrics,6, 819-823. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2009.01.009

Microsoft. (2015). Meet Xbox 360. Retrieved from

Nintendo. (2015). Wii Games. Retrieved from

Pate, R.R. (2008). Physical active video gaming: An effective strategy for obesity prevention. Pediatric Adolescent Medicine,(162)9, 895-896. doi:10.1001/archpedi.162.9.895

Sony Computer Entertainment America. (2014). EyeToy:Play. Retrieved from

Taylor, M.J., McCormick, D., Shawis, T., Impson, R., Griffin, M. (2011). Activity-promoting gaming systems in exercise and rehabilitation. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 10, 1171-1186. doi 10.1682/JRRD.2010.09.0171

Warburton, D.E. (2013). The health benefits of active gaming: Separating the myths from the virtual reality. Current Cardiovascular Risk Report, 7, 251-255. doi: 10.1007/s12170-013-0322-0