Video game play, child diet, and physical activity behavior change a randomized clinical trial

Am J Prev Med. 2011 Jan;40(1):33-8. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.09.029.


Background: Video games designed to promote behavior change are a promising venue to enable children to learn healthier behaviors.

Purpose: Evaluate outcome from playing "Escape from Diab" (Diab) and "Nanoswarm: Invasion from Inner Space" (Nano) video games on children's diet, physical activity, and adiposity.

Design: Two-group RCT; assessments occurred at baseline, immediately after Diab, immediately after Nano, and 2 months later. Data were collected in 2008-2009, and analyses were conducted in 2009-2010.

Setting/participants: 133 children aged 10-12 years, initially between 50th percentile and 95th percentile BMI.

Intervention: Treatment group played Diab and Nano in sequence. Control Group played diet and physical activity knowledge-based games on popular websites.

Main outcome measures: Servings of fruit, vegetable, and water; minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity. At each point of assessment: 3 nonconsecutive days of 24-hour dietary recalls; 5 consecutive days of physical activity using accelerometers; and assessment of height, weight, waist circumference, and triceps skinfold.

Results: A repeated measures ANCOVA was conducted (analyzed in 2009-2010). Children playing these video games increased fruit and vegetable consumption by about 0.67 servings per day (p<0.018) but not water and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, or body composition.

Conclusions: Playing Diab and Nano resulted in an increase in fruit and vegetable intake. Research is needed on the optimal design of video game components to maximize change.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Child
  • Diet / psychology*
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Fruit
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Vegetables
  • Video Games / psychology*