Do Video Games Count as Exercise?

June 20, 2011

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video gameDid you know that video games – once to blame for contributing to a sedentary lifestyle – now may be part of the solution for overcoming being a couch potato?


It’s a welcome development for people like me who are concerned with health and wellness. In fact, in my own household we regularly play what I call “exer-games” as a way to spend family time together and be active at the same time.

Now, studies are showing that such games not only encourage activity in the virtual realm, but that about 60 percent of those who play such video games at home go on to participate in the same sports and activities in the “real world.” It’s an exciting development.

If you haven’t seen them, the new generation of video game systems no longer depend on joysticks and control to play the game; they operate on the player’s own body movements. There are several brands, including Wii, PlayStation Move, or Xbox Kinect. It’s possible to play golf, tennis, or baseball; wakeboard; bowl; box; duel; take dance classes; learn yoga; and try dozens of other activities right in your own living room no matter what the weather or season.

In addition, most games can be connected via online networks so you can compete and play the games with others in real time around the country or even around the world!

One of the best things about these games is that they are so engaging, you don’t even feel like you’re “exercising” as you hop, jump, skip, run, and scoot your character across the screen. But sure enough, while you play you’re burning calories and, in many cases, getting a good cardiovascular workout as well!

Researcher Bruce Bailey, Ph.D., a Brigham Young University exercise scientist, says the games can burn up to 5 calories a minute compared to the 1 calorie a minute our bodies typically burn at rest – the equivalent of walking on a treadmill.

So while I never thought I’d be recommending that my patients play more video games, in this case I highly encourage adding such games to your and your family’s activity tool chest.

Just remember to get out in the “real world” and stay active, too!

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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