INDIANAPOLIS -- Three recent studies show that playing active video games burns more calories than playing sedentary hand-held games. The studies were presented this week at the 55th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Indianapolis.

One of the studies examined energy expenditure for active video games compared to sedentary games to see just how much more exercise kids get when playing systems like the Wii. Gregory Brown, Ph.D., FACSM, and his study team found that Wii Boxing, Wii Tennis, and Dance Dance Revolution (a popular arcade and now at-home dancing game) burned two to three times as many calories as traditional hand-held games. Brown’s study participants included 17 children, all around 11 years old.

“I would still recommend that kids get outdoors and play sports or dance with friends in the real world as opposed to a virtual one,” Brown says. “But if you’re going to play video games, you might as well play ones that get you active and moving.”

Researcher Viki Penpraze conducted a similar study, comparing two active games to a hand-held game and simply watching a DVD. Participants included 13 children, all around 10 years old.

During Dance Mat Mania and Eye-Toy Boxing, where players simulate actual boxers, children’s accelerometer counts of total movements per minute were more than four times the DVD and hand-held game activities. In addition, Penpraze observed a higher level of enjoyment in active gaming.

“Although enjoyment wasn’t officially part of the study, anecdotally, I can say that enjoyment appeared to be much higher in the active games,” Penpraze says. “These active games are more social in nature than watching a DVD or traditional hand-held games. While one player was competing, his or her partner would be cheering for them, which actually might have led to even more energy expenditure.”

A third study from The Netherlands found that perhaps not all active games meet recommended oxygen consumption – and energy expenditure – for children. The research team studied six gaming systems: Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Tennis, Eye-Toy Beach Volleyball, Xerbike, Lasersquash and Apartgame. Results showed that Wii Tennis and Eye-Toy Beach Volleyball did not achieve the level of energy output recommended for children by health and fitness experts in The Netherlands, but the researchers are in consensus that some activity is better than no activity at all. They say future studies on active games should focus on long-term use, effects on weight control, and risks.

“Parents should search for the most active games possible for their kids in order to get children in the habit of exercise,” says Sanne de Vries, M.S., lead author on the study. “But any active game is going to be better for your child physically than a hand-held one.”