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26 November 2013

Five Take-Aways From Research on Obesity-Reducing Videogames

Keywords: games, health, kids, obesity, Literature review, North America, Western Europe, gaming,

Health videogames offer new possibilities to increase positive health behaviors among children, including weight-related behaviors. A review of research published in the Games for Health Journal lists the characteristics of health videogames that are used in research to prevent childhood obesity. The research yields some important insights for policy makers and developers of obesity prevention programs.

Take aways

  • Health games can stimulate physical activity and consumption of fruit and vegetables, but only among children who are overweight.
  • The majority of health games target physical activity, with Dance Dance Revolution being the most popular in research.
  • Most health games are fun games and not educational.
  • Health games are mostly played at home.
  • The majority of the health videogames are available on Wii and Playstation. 

Study information

  • The question?

    What are the characteristics of health videogames that have been used in research on childhood obesity prevention?

  • Who?

    Focus on children

  • Where?

    United States, Europa and New Zealand

  • How?

    A literature review of 14 studies published between 2005 and 2013 was conducted, focusing on 28 health videogames. Based on this review, the characteristics of health videogames that have been used in research to prevent childhood obesity were assessed.

Facts and findings

The top-5 most common characteristics of health videogames:

  1. Almost half of the health games (40%) increased children’s healthy lifestyle behaviors (e.g., increased fruit and vegetable intake and increased physical activity), but only among children who were overweight. 
  2. In the majority of the health games the goal was to increase children’s physical activity (79%). A few health games focused on both physical activity and healthy eating (17%). 
  3. Most health games were exergames (82%) and not educational games (18%). Dance Dance Revolution was the most popular health game in research.
  4. Health videogames were mostly played at home (60%), followed by schools (23%) and sport facilities (17%). 
  5. The majority of health games were available on commercial consoles (e.g., Wii and Playstation) for kids (78%). 

Critical note: these conclusions are based on the 28 games that have been investigated in research. It is unclear whether this selection of games is representative for all health games.