We didn't need to be told that dancing your butt off with Dance Dance Revolution will burn some serious calories, especially in comparison to just passively sitting there with only your fingers getting a workout. However, one obesity researcher at the Mayo Clinic wanted to find out exactly how much more energy we burn with something like DDR.
Lorraine Lanningham-Foster recently had her findings published in the Pediatrics medical journal, and they're quite intriguing.
"In this day and time, children really love to play video games," Lanningham-Foster told GameSpot. "And even though we might want children to be outside and engaged in more traditional children's play, I don't think that children are going to abandon video games anytime soon...It's important to look at it this way because video gaming may potentially be a better way for obesity researchers to develop better interventions for children."
The group responsible for this study selected 25 children - 10 of which were mildly obese - and placed them in five different states of activity. They were plopped in front of a TV screen to simply watch a show or two (gee, they probably didn't expend much energy there), then they sat and played a standard video game. After this, they put the kids on a treadmill set to 1.5 miles per hour...while watching television. Nifty. And of course, they tested them while playing two games that require activity (the EyeToy-compatible Nicktoons Movin' and Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 2 on the Xbox).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers concluded that those test subjects who watched TV and played a traditional game expended the same amount of energy. However, those who played the Jellyfish Jam game on Movin' burned triple the number of calories as when they simply sat and watched. Furthermore, the obese children used five times as much energy when playing Movin'. For both groups, the biggest calorie-burning activity was DDR, where the obese children burned six times the calories they would normally burn just sitting there.
"Activity-promoting video games have the potential to increase energy expenditure in children to a degree similar to that of traditional playtime," the researchers concluded, adding, "We think that converting seat-based screen time to activity-associated screen time is an essential approach for promoting an active environment that is also fun for children."
They completed the study not long after Nintendo launched the Wii, which of course focuses more on energy-intensive gaming. But due to the time of the study, Lanningham-Foster couldn't use it in the testing. Even so, she says she's "fascinated" by the console.
"I haven't had a chance to do some studies with it, but it's something I'd love to have the opportunity to do," Lanningham-Foster said. "The technology there is actually quite similar to some of the technology we use to monitor physical activity in children."
Of course, the group recognized the small size of the test group in this scenario, but they deem the findings "sufficient to warrant further studies." And we'd have to guess the results were pretty darn accurate, and even with a larger sampling, we'd see very similar results.
1/5/2007 Ben Dutka