Paediatric cardiologist Dr. Luis Altamirano wants video game designers to incorporate a dimension of physical activity for the game players in all future products. He was photographed Victoria Hospital in London, Ont. on Thursday October 31, 2019. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network

Kids enjoy playing video games that much we know.

While kids fail to get the recommended one hour a day of intense physical activity, they are spending between one and three hours every day in front of their consoles.

But the answer to getting children a little more active might not be to stop them from playing video games, a London researcher says. Instead, the trick might be to get video game creators to include more active components in some of the world’s more popular games.

“This is not going to replace usual physical activity, but it might provide some physical activity that otherwise (children) are not getting,” said Luis Altamirano, a pediatric cardiologist and associate scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute.

According to his research, which involved children between the ages of eight and 16, active video games — the kind that tracks body movement and requires players to use their bodies to play — have the capacity to raise children’s heart rates and generate what could be considered moderate to high levels of physical activity.

But several issues make active video games less popular among children than the sedentary titles, such as Call of Duty, Minecraft or Fornite, Altamirano said.

Key among them, his research showed, was that children quickly lost interest in active video games that forced them to mimic specific movements as opposed to giving them the freedom to play as they wished.

Active video games, a sector of the gaming industry that has failed to take off and garner big audiences, also have to compete with game makers used to releasing new titles often, causing children constantly change their interests.

“We know that every year you are getting a new game,” Altamirano said.

“So even if you design the best video game, one that kids are going to like, in six or 12 months they are not going to play it because there are going to be new video games.”

The most viable solution, Altamirano said, is to turn the tables and urge game makers to act in a socially responsibly way by adding active components to their mainstream titles, forcing children to perform physical tasks to get perqs or advance through levels.

“When the technology gets better, I’m sure that would be an easy way to use that technology to elicit more physical activity,” he said.



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