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Video Games Now Considered Good 'Exercise' for Kids

The bar for kids' health by moving their bodies has fallen a little low, with a new study concluding that video games are good for "moderate or intense physical activity."

Sounds like a load off of guilty parents' shoulders right? Now we're OK to hand over the controller and walk out of the room—for hours at a time, right? Not so fast. The study, published in the Games for Health Journal, is hardly arguing kids shouldn't be working up a sweat playing soccer and freeze tag.

But the evidence indicates video games for a short amount of time can burn up the morning's overly sugary breakfast cereal (because you gave in on that, too!). Keep in mind the caveats:

The counterintuitive findings are for children 5 to 8 years old only, so teens still need to get out and, oh, maybe walk somewhere a few times a week. And it only goes for those video games that require the entire body—not just adept thumbs—to be engaged. The study compared the energy output for those types of video games with what it takes to play unstructured outside, according to a report in the Telegraph. Does swinging burn many calories?

For the study, kids were outfitted with hip and wrist accelerometers, which gauge the output of any movement. Over three weeks, each child participated in one gaming session and one unstructured period outdoors. Each last only 20 minutes. Kids were allow to rest whenever they wanted.

Researchers trained observers to record activity levels, while the accelerometers estimated the amount of energy expended minute-by-minute.

The accelerometer on the child's hip recorded higher levels of moderate to vigorous intensity during video gaming than during outdoor play, suggesting to the horror of P.E. teachers everywhere that video games may be a good source of physical activity. But only for young kids! And only 20 minutes at a time.

Image via Twenty20/kikojavier

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