Steps to tackle obesity in children is the focus of a new research project launched by Nottingham Trent University this week. The initiative, led by Dr Richard Wood from the university's School of Social Sciences, aims to explore how videogames can potentially by used to help obese children stay active.
According to the Department of Health's most recent figures, 13.3% of the 5.3m children aged two to 10 in the UK are obese. Only last week, a report was published by the Department for Education and Skills which suggested that there had been a dramatic fall in the number of children playing competitive sport at school. It was claimed that 60% of 15 to 16 year olds were not taking part in school games.
In contrast, videogames have never been so popular, with 82% of nine to 19 year olds owning a console and 70% playing computer games online.
"There are now a number of action orientated video games on the market for children including Sony's EyeToy and Nintendo's Dancemat which promote physical activity amongst players as opposed to traditional videogames which are sedentary," said Dr Wood.
"We know that videogames are increasingly popular with children. The purpose of this project is to examine whether action-orientated videogames can be effective in terms of encouraging physical activity amongst obese children and furthermore, how the use of videogames can affect psychological wellbeing."
The study will involve around 40 children aged 7 to twelve years of age who are overweight. Measures will be taken to determine the level of physical exertion required to undertake selected games. Participants will also be interviewed and asked to rate the games in terms of enjoyment. It is expected that the research will take almost a year to complete.
Dr Wood's added: "Once we have the results, we will then develop practical suggestions as to how games can be designed to encourage physical activity in children."
The research project will also involve the Nottingham Primary Care Trust, Nottingham University's Hospitals Trust, the Regional Public Health Group and Sport England.
Dr Dilip Nathan, Consultant Community Paediatrician at Nottingham University's Hospital Trust says, "If we think like young people and understand what they look for in computer games, I believe we may be able to unlock some important findings as to how these games could be developed in the future to promote physical activity."
Sarah Bowles from Sport England and Regional Public Health Group added: "This project is taking place as a result of a solid partnership between organisations which have recognised that there may be new and interesting ways to combat the obesity problem in this country."
Notes to editors
Photocall: Children involved in the study will be trialing some of the active videogames and will be available for pictures & interviews
Dr Richard Wood will also be available as a spokesperson for the project
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