Impact of exergaming on young children's school day energy expenditure and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity levels

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Background Although emerging research is demonstrating the potential health impact of exergaming, investigations have primarily been conducted in laboratory settings among small samples with short-term interventions. Information on the effectiveness of exergaming in underserved children's objective physical activity (PA) in population-based settings is also scarce. Moreover, most empirical studies have only included 1 type of exergame in the intervention. Therefore, this study's purpose was to investigate the long-term impact of a multigame exergaming intervention among underserved children integrated within school curricula. Specifically, this study examined the effect of exergaming on children's accelerometer-determined sedentary behavior (SB), light PA, moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA), and energy expenditure (EE) over 2 years as compared with regular physical education (PE) classes. Methods A total of 261 second- and third-grade children (134 girls, 127 boys; mean age 8.27 years) were recruited from 2 Texas elementary schools. Children's pre-test 3-day SB, light PA, MVPA, and EE at school were assessed in the fall of 2012. Participants were assigned to 1 of 2 groups: (1) exergaming/PE group (125 min weekly of exergaming-based PA program) and (2) comparison group (125 min weekly of PE). PA (SB, light PA, and MVPA) and EE outcome variables were assessed again in 2013 (post-test) and 2014 (follow-up). Results Significant time effects were observed for SB (F(1, 162) = 25.0, p < 0.01, η2 = 0.14), light PA (F(1, 162) = 9.6, p < 0.01, η2 = 0.06), and MVPA (F(1, 162) = 6.2, p = 0.01, η2 = 0.04) but not for EE (F(1, 162) = 0.63, p > 0.05, η2 = 0.004). Subsequent pairwise comparisons revealed significant increases from pre- to post-test for light PA (p < 0.01), MVPA (p < 0.01), and EE (p = 0.02) with no changes in SB (p > 0.05). Conversely, significant decreases occurred in light PA (p < 0.01) from post-test to follow-up with no differences seen in MVPA (p = 0.08) and EE (p = 0.06) over the same time period. A significant increase was seen, however, for SB from post-test to follow-up. Conclusion Exergaming PE can have the same positive effect on children's light PA, MVPA, and EE as regular PE. More research is necessary to discern how to promote long-term PA participation after conclusion of the intervention. © 2017

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