Children are more physically active when encouraged by exergames and smartphone apps

A lot of children are not as physically active as they probably should be. That’s because their parents spend too much time working and not enough cultivating children’s natural desire to explore and play. And electronic devices nowadays are used as make-shift babysitters, which is not ideal.

But scientists at the University of Birmingham say that physical activity among young people can be improved with intelligent smartphone apps and exergames.

Children need to spend time outside – it is healthy for their growing bodies and their expanding minds. Image credit: Stephenson via Wikimedia

Scientists analysed 26 studies of online interventions for physical activity and found that gamification, personalisation and information are the three main mechanisms leading to the desired change of behaviour. Gamification basically makes physical activity a bit of a game with different achievement levels. Personalisation allows users to tailor their reward systems, while information provides educational material. All of these mechanisms are essential for building exergames – smartphone apps and simple regular games that encourage physical activity in children.

Scientists also found that children and young people in general react positively when exergames are included in physical education classes. These kinds of activities, which do not always include digital devices (exergames can be played in real life without smartphones and apps) are fun – they improve children’s  emotions, attitudes and motivations towards physical activity.

Researchers discovered that 70 % of all studies on the subject reported an increase of activity and better exercise outcomes when online interventions are presented to them. Children love spending time with a screen in their hands. However, physical activity is important and using those smart devices to encourage exercise is just a good idea.

Dr Victoria Goodyear, lead author of the study, “We find convincing evidence that PE teachers can use online learning to boost attitudes and participation in physical activity among young people, particularly at primary school age. There’s a real opportunity here for the PE profession to lead the way in designing meaningful and effective online exercise opportunities, as well as an opportunity to embed positive approaches to exercise and online games and apps at an early stage.”

Children need to move more. One of the ways to do this is to lead by example. Develop a physical activity regime that involves the entire family. Go on runs, play basketball, ride bicycles, hike – children will love that time if you will love it as well.

Source: University of Birmingham