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Do Video Games Contribute to Obesity

For years, video games have been used as a convenient scapegoat to take the blame for many problems such as mass shootings, bad grades, and so forth. Obesity, let alone obesity in children and young adults, is no exception. Obesity can be linked to a number of mental and physical ailments. One common physical ailment being linked with obesity is asthma which adversely affects the respiratory system. Obese children have the potential to develop cancer in general or liver cirrhosis. Furthermore, a study by the Child Development Journal has found that obese children are more likely to receive lower scores on standardized math tests. In short, obesity affects the mind, body and spirit. Since video games have been at the center of many negative things, it is easy to assume that this type of hobby can be blamed for obesity.

There is information that suggests that video games do contribute to obesity; but, there is also information that contradicts that belief. The causes of obesity can be linked to many factors. While video games can be a factor, it has be linked with many other factors. According to an article found in Science Daily, dated May 29 of 2011, video games increases food intake in teenagers according to a study. There are correlations found; but, it does not say that video game causes obesity. But, more studies are needed to get better information.

However, information from more recent studies tell a different story. In 2011, Michigan State University had a team that conducted a study using a select group of twelve year-old children. The selected group would be followed for three years. Surveys would be responded by the children and their parents in regards to how much they play video games, go online, and how often they used cellular phones. Furthermore, parents were asked about the height, weight, race, exam scores, and socioeconomic status of their children. The predicting factors of weight prediction were not found in video games; but, they were found in rage, age, and socioeconomic status. In a positive light for video games, children that used the Internet more had better scores in reading while children that played more video games had better visuospatial skills.

One decade ago, University of Miami physiologist Arlette Perry conducted a study using her son Thomas and twenty other children to study the effects of chronic video game use. The children would play the fighting game “Tekken 3.” Perry found that playing a game like Tekken 3 increased heart rates and blood pressure to the point where it was the equivalent of walking three miles per hour. In short, a game like Tekken 3 was providing a form of exercise. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that while screen time amongst children increased within a decade, it did not affect the growth of obesity. With that information present, video games cannot be blamed for contributing to obesity let alone child obesity.

Perhaps the biggest overall contributor to obesity is socioeconomic status. A recent opinion article from the Tennessean, dated July 21 of 2012, says that the main contributor to obesity is poverty. The article gives the explanation that the nation’s poorest states are the most obese states. For example, it lists Mississippi as having the highest poverty rate out of the other states in the US. Also, the article points out that the state has the most overweight residents. In short, the article says that poverty fosters obesity. This reinforces and gives more credibility to the study conducted by the University of Michigan. The Tennessean article also adds that due to poverty, poorer people tend to eat fatty foods in higher proportion due to the low cost.

When you combine the information of Arletty Perry from the University of Miami, the study conducted by the University of Michigan, and the opinion piece from the Tennessean, it is difficult to say that video games contribute to obesity.

Video game prices continue to increase due to the price of next-generation home and portable consoles. In this respect, those that live in poverty would find it difficult to access these games and systems.

Furthermore, one should take a look at Japan and South Korea. One of Japan’s biggest commodities is video games. But, there are not many reports on obesity in Japan. The case is similar for South Korea where online games such as “Dungeon Fighter Online” are popular. Yet, barely any reports on obesity in South Korea.

While video games are a convenient scapegoat, they cannot be blamed for obesity. This is similar to the consistent argument that video games contribute to gun violence while there has been no proof linking the two together.

Recently, there has been a trend of fitness games. This is one of the reasons that the Nintendo Wii has been successful in sales. The popular Konami game called “Dance Dance Revolution” or “DDR” is looked at as a viable alternative when it comes to physical fitness. A game like DDR requires that players are constantly active. This is because you have to mimic the moves that appear on screen. Patrick Henry Middle School, which has used DDR for over seven years for PE classes found that some students lost much weight over the course of time.

To get the physical benefits from DDR, you do have to play the game regularly for one to two hours a day for several days/nights out of the week.

In regards to video games, simply play in moderation. Again, you still have to factor in socioeconomic status and poverty levels. If you are playing video games, just be careful of what you eat and drink.