Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.See all posts »
Video Games and Weight Gain: Truth or Fantasy?
The study involved 22 healthy adolescent males, none of whom were overweight. Each one participated in a one hour video game on one day, and a one hour rest period on another day. After each session, they were given free access to an all you can eat lunch. The researchers found that while playing the video game burned just a measly 21 extra calories, lunchtime calorie intake was 80 calories higher after playing videos than on the resting day. The munchies didn’t stop there. By the end of the day, the gamers had taken in a whopping extra 163 calories. To put that into context, someone who plays a video game every day could be on target to gain an extra 17 pounds in one year, without ever realizing that he or she was overeating.
How can we explain this? While the research doesn’t specifically answer that question, there is clearly something about playing a video game— in essence living a virtual life—that tricks us into believing that we are burning more energy. This in turn means that we feel the need to take in more calories to keep our energy levels in balance.
Not all video games are alike. Last year, the American Heart Association teamed up with the Nintendo Corporation to promote its Wii Fit products as an innovative way to lose weight and have fun. Programs include yoga, dance, and sports such as golf and tennis. Other companies are following suit, developing physically interactive games and programs that promise to help jump start your heart.
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