Can interactive fitness games such as Wii Fit and Xbox 360 fitness games replace a good old-fashioned workout for your kids? A new study says they can, but with a note of caution.

The study, published March 7 online in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, states some games offer a moderate to vigorous workout and can bolster energy expenditure by four to eight times compared to, say, sitting on the couch watching TV.

The researchers didn't measure whether interactive video games help kids lose weight - more research needs to be done. Also, an editorial accompanying the study by San Diego State University psychology professor James F. Sallis states that too much time playing video games could prevent kids from engaging in sports or playtime that would also help fight obesity and keep them healthy.

What games offer the best workout? The Boston-based study evaluated six different games, three of which are commercial interactive games marketed to schools and fitness centers: LightSpace's Bug Invasion, Cybex Trazer's Goalie Wars, and Sportwall. At-home fitness games included Dance Dance Revolution, Nintendo Wii's Boxing, and Xavix's J-Mat. Sportwall and the J-Mat scored top marks as the most energetic workouts, similar to jogging, researchers said. These games were followed by Bug Invasion, Goalie Wars, and Dance Dance Revolution. Wii Boxing didn't fare as well, requiring less energy than walking.

A prior study published in the British Medical Journal reveals that kids burn more energy when playing interactive fitness games compared to sitting still, but not as much energy as playing the sport itself. Plus they reported that the energy used when playing active video games was not of a high enough intensity to contribute towards the recommended daily amount of exercise in children.

The current recommendation for children and adolescents according to the US-based Centers for Disease and Control is 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day (this does not need to be continuous and can include varied types of activities).

Access the latest study here: http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/archpediatrics.2011.16

Learn more about some of the top games and where to find them:

http://www.xavix.com/products/index.html
http://www.lightspace-fitness.com/

Watch a demo of Lightspace's Bug Invasion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nBkGQOm_Vg

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