A study at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge was conducted to determine what impact, if any, “exergaming” had on weight loss – and the focus was on adolescent girls.
Exergaming, if you don’t already know, is video gaming that requires physical activity – kind of like the Nintendo Wii. However, this study used the Kinect for Xbox, which has no remote.
Instead, you are the remote; and the girls had to dance.
"When you play the game you see characters on the screen modeling those dance moves," says Dr. Amanda Staiano, "and so you have to move your arms and legs to play or else you don’t get as many points and you’re not going to win the game.”
Staiano was lead researcher for the study. She invited 41 local girls aged 14-18 who were overweight or obese to participate. For three hours a week, over three months, they came to Pennington to play two games – and the results were interesting.
While leg and abdominal fat decreased, overall total weight loss averaged only half a kilogram, or about a pound.
"Certainly not clinically significant, " Staiano says. "We want that weight loss to be more.”
However, psychologically, the girls’ self-esteem improved; and surprisingly, bone density increased – something Staiano was not anticipating.
“Typically it takes a longer duration and frequency of exercise before you start seeing benefits for bone density," says Staiano. "Perhaps it’s because these girls are obese and they do already have low levels of bone density that maybe they were more responsive to this kind of intervention.”
Which is important for these girls. Bone density develops during the window between your adolescence and late 20’s. After that, bone density slowly decreases throughout your life.
While the study was fun for the girls and they got to play the newest video games, Staiano says the purpose of their research was anything but.
“Children today are expected to have shorter lives than their parents," Staiano says, "because of obesity and its related diseases.”
And, Staiano says that childhood obesity in Louisiana is on the rise.