Promoting Physical Activity and Fitness with Exergames: Updated Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews

Promoting Physical Activity and Fitness with Exergames: Updated Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews

Tuomas Kari (University of Jyvaskyla, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1817-4.ch013
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This updated systematic review of systematic reviews evaluates the effectiveness of exergaming on physical fitness and physical activity. A systematic literature search was conducted on 10 databases, first in 2014 and then repeated in 2016. In total, 1040 and 287 articles were identified. 68 and 31 articles were found potentially relevant and selected for closer screening. The quality of all relevant articles was evaluated using the AMSTAR tool. After the duplicates were removed and inclusion, exclusion, and quality criteria were implemented, six and three articles remained for review. The results indicate that exergaming is generally enjoyed and can evoke some benefits for physical fitness and physical activity, but the current evidence does not support the ability of exergaming to increase physical fitness or physical activity levels sufficiently for significant health benefits. This systematic review also revealed gaps in previous research. Additional high-quality research and systematic reviews concerning exergaming are needed.
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In recent years, a new form of video gaming that combines exercise and games has emerged. This type of gaming has been called by different terms such as ‘exergaming’, ‘active gaming’, or ‘active video gaming’ (AVG). They all refer to digital gaming that requires physical effort from the player in order to play the game, with the outcome of the game being mainly determined by these physical efforts (Mueller et al., 2011). Kari and Makkonen (2014, p. 2) provide a definition of exergaming as follows: “a form of digital gaming requiring aerobic physical effort – exceeding sedentary activity level and including strength-, balance-, or flexibility-related activity – from the player that determines the outcome of the game”. Exergames are played in all age groups, but it seems that playing is more common among the younger age groups than the older (Kari, Makkonen, Moilanen, & Frank, 2013). The popularity of exergaming seems to be equal between men and women (Kari, Makkonen, Moilanen & Frank, 2012; Kari, 2015) and also between different physical activity background groups (Kari, 2015). However, the more active a person is in playing any digital games the more active he or she is also in exergaming (Kari, 2015).

The widespread familiarity and allure of video games makes exergaming an interesting research area, for example, in terms of promoting a more active and healthier lifestyle (Maddison et al., 2013). During the recent years, researchers have become increasingly interested in exergaming and especially in its effects on physical fitness and physical activity levels.

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