Meta-analysis on exercise videogames (Peng et al., 2011)

Since my arrival at Columbus, I’ve gained some weight and am trying to lose them over the summer by going to the gym regularly. I’ve got to admit that I ate out in restaurants more often than back home with my mom’s cooking and with the little budget I have my cooking is somewhat left to be desired. Although, I don’t play Dance Dance Revolution nor do I think anyone in OSU’s School of Communication is doing studies in exercise videogames. Wei Peng (Michigan State University) and colleagues have published a meta-analysis in Cyberpsychology on this very topic. However, I don’t understand any of the terms in the abstract nor do I feel to check them out in Wikipedia.


This article reports a meta-analysis of energy expenditure (EE) of playing active video games (AVGs). In particular, heart rate (HR), oxygen consumption (VO2), and EE were assessed and three moderators for the effects of AVGs—types of AVG, player age, and player weight status—were analyzed. The results show that playing AVGs significantly increased HR, VO2, and EE from resting. The effect sizes of playing AVGs on HR, VO2, and EE were similar to traditional physical activities. AVG type and player age were significant moderators for the effects of AVGs. The finding suggests that AVGs are effective technologies that may facilitate light- to moderate-intensity physical activity promotion.

I’ve been thinking in applying to other universities for my PhD track. I am considering Michigan State or Concordia University, what with a multi-disciplinary program underway (except for a lack of an experimentalist).

They searched in seven English-language databases using terms relevant to active videogames, such as “exercise”, “exergame”, “sports, game” among others. Their date range is from January 1995 to October 2010. This is quite impressive that they searched, analysed and published a meta-analysis in such short order. But then again, they found 47 studies related to active videogames. They trimmed it down with additional criteria, such as whether the study is using an active videogame, normal population and not patients, have a resting or baseline measure, and data that can be compared with each other. This led to a final total of 18 studies, none of which were in my library as they were published in the medical and exercise literature, outside of my intellectual domain.

The studies typically have small sample sizes (M = 19.66, SD = 7), ranging from 10 to 40. 13 of these studies examined children, whereas the rest are adults. They varied across the weight range from normal to overweight, most examined normal weight participants, but many also included overweight participants. The studies used the Nintendo Wii, PS2, xbox and… what’s a XaviX? I never heard of that console. The most common videogame used is the Wii sports game, specifically boxing (n = 6), followed by DDR (n = 5) and as for the XaviX, one of them used Jackie Chan Fitness Studio. They classified the videogames into three types, one that exercises either the upper (e.g. Wii sports), lower (e.g. DDR) or whole body. Most studies were conducted in the United States, followed by the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. So these studies covered a small(?) range of exercise videogames.


Look back to the abstract for the overall results. As for the moderators, I’ll describe it some more. So the game type was not a significant moderator for heart rate or Vo2, but it was significant for energy expenditure as the lower body and whole body demanded more energy than the upper body type games. I am betting it was DDR. The age was not a moderator again for heart rate or Vo2, but the effect is larger among children than adults in terms of energy expenditure.


The take-home message was that active videogames do exercise our bodies, but these won’t replace traditional exercise since they currently don’t involve much moderate or vigorous physical exercise. There are too few studies, so more are needed to figure out what makes a good active videogames, especially when 16 studies were published recently from 2006 to 2010 whereas only two studies were published in early 2000s.  The authors suggested that active videogames designers should concentrate on designing games that build more lower body movements because some players might adopt lazy strategies (i.e. shaking their wrists) when using the wii-mote. I, on the other hand, want a videogame that mirrors DDR, perhaps a game that will demand and detect wild arm movements.

Peng, W., Lin, J.-H., & Crouse, J. (2011). Is playing exergames really exercising? a Meta-Analysis of energy expenditure in active video games. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. DOI: 10.1089/cyber.2010.0578

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