12/20/2012 03:49 EST | Updated 02/19/2013 05:12 EST

Active Video Games Are No Replacement for Activity


Leading up to the holiday season, many parents spend a great deal of time researching and shopping for the perfect gift to give their kids. While there's no shortage of new and innovative gadgets kids will love this year, it's important to find gifts that encourage your children to get active and play outdoors, no matter how old they are.

Warm winter clothes and sports equipment, such as ice skates, a sled or a soccer ball give kids a gift that's more than just exercise -- these gifts help children foster a connection to the outdoors, help with cognitive development and teach social skills.

Lately, there's been a lot of buzz about active video games being a new tech solution to the inactivity crisis in Canadian kids. While active video games -- also called exergames -- may seem like a plausible way to get kids to exercise more, a recent review of academic literature suggests this may not be the case. In fact, based on this research, Active Healthy Kids Canada and its partners, the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (HALO-CHEO) and ParticpACTION, advise against active video games as a strategy to help kids meet the daily physical activity guidelines.

So, while active video games are a good way to break up sedentary time, like sitting on the couch, and may get heart rates up briefly, it's not enough to meaningfully contribute to the 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity children and youth require daily. In order to get the recommended daily amount of physical activity and teach kids physical literacy, kids need to be encouraged to take part in a wide variety of real physical activities that are fun and get their bodies moving and hearts pumping.


Fun Ways To Get Fit

That's why ParticipACTION is encouraging kids to get outside and play this holiday season -- whether it's in the backyard, at the school yard, or at one of Canada's picturesque parks. Active video games are appealing to kids at first, but the novelty wears off, and kids don't tend to stick with them. They also do not offer the fresh air, vitamin D, connection with nature, and social interactions that come with outdoor active play.

So try mixing up your routine with a new activity that kids can learn and enjoy. Have you ever been snow shoeing? Get active over the holidays as a family -- it sets a great example for your children and places high value on the benefits of physical activity that accumulates through life.

Visit for more tips on how to stay physically active with your family this holiday season and on how to maintain that enthusiasm for active play throughout the year.