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Can playing video games be good exercise?

Lin, Gu, ZhangThree UNT researchers are studying whether certain video games that require players to physically move may be beneficial because they may lead to regular exercise.

Lin Lin, associate professor of learning technologies in UNT’s College of Information, and Xiangli Gu and Tao Zhang, both assistant professors of kinesiology, health promotion and recreation in the College of Education, are surveying children ages 5-12 and parents who are visiting the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History about their perceptions of interactive video games, such as Dance Dance Revolution and various Wii Sports. And the children will be invited to play those games.

The researchers and their student assistants are at the museum on Saturdays in the first-floor Research and Learning Center, which opened in January to give researchers a public setting to engage with volunteers for their studies. Museum visitors may come to the center to participate in the 15-minute research interactions.

Lin said researchers “need to think about how you can help the public become engaged in research and science.”

“The studies are not just about collecting data. They’re an example of how faculty members at a university can engage the community,” she said. “The challenge of being at the museum is that potential volunteers are not necessarily there for your study — they’re there to enjoy the museum. You need to make the research interactive, interesting and informative for both the children and the parents.”

The UNT researchers will assess body composition of the children ages 5-7 by measuring height and weight and taking skin fold measurements, while the older children will be asked about their perceptions of interactive video games. The parents of both groups of children will fill out surveys about their children’s cognitive functioning and physical activity during leisure time. The survey results will provide insight into possible links between these types of games and children’s physical and cognitive well- being.

Lin said children who are not interested in playing outside, or participating in organized team sports, may become more interested after playing video sports. She added that the researchers have already seen some surprising answers to the questions asked to the older children.

“One boy who plays sports video games said that those games are harder than playing regular sports because the games require more coordination,” she said.

The study will continue at the museum through August. The researchers plan to have 150 children included in the study.

—Nancy Kolsti, News Promotions

Above, from left, Tao Zhang and Xiangli Gu, assistant professors of Kinesiology, Health Promotion & Recreation, and Lin Lin, associate professor of Learning Technologies, are conducting research at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History during the summer. (Photo by Ahna Hubnik/URCM)

Posted on: Thu 10 July 2014

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