The Effects of Active Videogames on BMI among Young People: A Meta-Analysis

The Effects of Active Videogames on BMI among Young People: A Meta-Analysis

Jonathan van ‘t Riet (Radboud University, The Netherlands), Eva Alblas (Radboud University, The Netherlands), Rik Crutzen (Maastricht University, The Netherlands) and Amy Shirong Lu (Northeastern University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9522-1.ch013
OnDemand PDF Download:


The objective of this chapter is a systematic review and meta-analysis was performed to quantify the effectiveness of active videogames (AVGs) as obesity prevention interventions aimed at children and adolescents. The method is studies were included that focused on children or adolescents (=18 years), assessed BMI as the outcome measure, used one or more AVGs as intervention, employed a controlled experimental design, used BMI as an outcome measure, enrolled participants up to and including 18 years of age, and comprised original studies. Employing these inclusion criteria, nine studies were included in the meta-analysis. The results are active videogames had a small to medium-sized and significant average effect on children and adolescents: Hedges' g = 0.38 (95% CI: 0.00 - 0.77). Heterogeneity was substantial (I2 = .91) but neither participants' weight status, nor sample size, intervention duration or dropout moderated the effect of AVGs. The conclusion of this chapter is the results of this meta-analysis provide preliminary evidence that active videogames can decrease BMI among children/adolescents.
Chapter Preview


For children and adolescents, rigorous physical exercise contributes to a healthy body weight (Must & Tybor, 2005). Promoting exercise is challenging, however, because physical activity has multiple antecedents (Bauman, Sallis, Dzewaltowski, & Owen, 2002). Interventions have generally had small effects (Brawley, Rejeski, & King, 2003; Waters et al., 2011) and have not been able to reverse an alarming increase in obesity rates (Ogden, Carroll, Curtin, Lamb, & Flegal, 2010). Therefore, it is critical that we try to identify novel approaches to promoting exercise. In the present chapter, we investigate whether so called active videogames (AVGs) are an effective instrument to promote exercise among children and adolescents.

AVGs are defined as “interactive video or electronic games that feature player movement, such as would occur in ‘real-life’ exercise participation” (Bailey & McInnis, 2011). In AVGs players can control avatars, obtain points and/or move the game’s narrative along by moving (parts of) their bodies. Usually, players’ movements are recorded by floor mats, infra-red cameras, or other devices, and serve as input in the game (e.g., Dance Dance RevolutionTM and Wii Sports ResortTM). Many of these games require considerable physical exertion to play the game, and hence are often denoted as ‘active videogames’ (LeBlanc et al., 2013) or ‘exergames’ (Larsen, Schou, Lund, & Langberg, 2013).

An example of a particularly popular and commercially successful AVG is Dance Dance RevolutionTM, in which players enter a virtual dancing contest. In Dance Dance RevolutionTM, players stand on a ‘dance pad’ while looking at a screen and listening to music. The dance pad contains colored arrows laid out in a cross, and the gameplay entails that players step on these arrows, timing their steps both to the rhythm of the music that is played and to arrows that appear on the screen. These on-screen arrows appear at the bottom of the screen and move upwards, passing over the ‘Step Zone’ near the top. When the moving arrows overlap with the Step Zone, the player must step on the dance pad arrows that correspond with the moving arrows on the screen. The game judges every step in terms of accuracy (from ‘miss’ to ‘marvelous’). Accurate steps fill the life bar, but inaccurate steps drain it. A fully depleted life bar means ‘game over’. Otherwise, the player is taken to the Results Screen, which rates the player’s performance. Receiving a passing score means that players will be allowed to choose another song and continue to play.

It has been repeatedly shown that active videogames such as Dance Dance RevolutionTM can result in increased physical activity, as well as related health-outcomes (Bethea, Berry, Maloney, & Sikich, 2012; Maddison et al., 2011). On the other hand, several studies have found the effect of AVGs to be non-significant (Madsen, Yen, Wlasiuk, Newman, & Lustig, 2007; Wagener, Fedele, Mignogna, Hester, & Gillaspy, 2012). The effects of AVGs among young people has been the subject of several systematic reviews (Biddiss & Irwin, 2010; LeBlanc et al., 2013; Lu, Kharrazi, Gharghabi, & Thompson, 2013; Peng, Lin, & Crouse, 2011). Importantly, conclusions in these reviews were based on statistical significance (i.e., p-values). This may not be surprising in light of the important role that p-values have traditionally played in behavioral science. Recently, however, scholars have increasingly stressed the importance of effect sizes, because these, unlike p-values, can be used if we want to estimate the substance and meaningfulness of the effect (Kline, 2004; Volker, 2006). With regards to the ‘robustness’ of these effect sizes, it has been argued that confidence intervals are more informative than p-values (Cumming, 2013). In this paper, we therefore report effect sizes and use these in a meta-analysis to be able to obtain an estimate of how meaningful and substantial the effects of AVGs actually are.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Active Videogames (AVGs): “Interactive video or electronic games that feature player movement, such as would occur in ‘real-life’ exercise participation” ( Bailey & McInnis, 2011 ).

Fixed Effect Model: Meta-analytic approach in which effect sizes are analyzed as if they stem from a single populations of effect sizes.

Exergames: See Active Videogames (AVGs).

Random Effects Model: Meta-analytic approach in which effect sizes are analyzed as if they stem from multiple subpopulations of effect sizes.

Meta-Analysis: A method of combining effect sizes from individual studies into a single composite effect size.

Gamification: “The use of game design elements in non-game contexts” ( Deterding, Dixon, Khlaled, & Nacke, 2011 ).

Exercise Programs: Intervention programs designed to promote physical exercise.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: