Benefits of Exergaming for Children

Benefits of Exergaming for Children

A series of studies conducted in recent years have shown that exergaming is good for children in a number of ways, some of them more surprising than others. iDANCE and similar games improve children’s agility and coordination, give them the daily dose of exercise they need and, like other types of fitness activities, active games have been known to improve children’s academic performance. However, unlike many other forms of exercise that are just as good for them, exergaming is also an activity that children tend to enjoy. Because exergames are designed to engage kids in a video game, one that requires them to perform physical tasks in order to score points and move from one level to the next, children tend to take to them pretty quickly.

Almost a half of preschool children do not get an hour of exercise a day, which is the level of physical activity recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The reasons why kids don’t exercise enough range from a lack of motivation and competence to insufficient support from parents and friends. Yet the main reason why children do not get as much exercise as they should is the same as the reason why they do exercise when they do: because it’s fun. Some children find different forms of physical activity fun, while others find video games and TV programs more entertaining. For this reason, a growing number of schools – and families – have recognized the benefits and appeal of active video games and begun introducing them to their children.

Exergames are increasingly becoming part of the curriculum at schools not only to make exercise more fun for children, who are already used to spending a lot of time playing sedentary video games, but also to motivate kids to exercise more. iDANCE, like other fun active games, does not only eliminate the usual barriers to physical activity, mainly the lack of interest, but also inspires enthusiasm for exercise, which is essential to long term success in making a fitness workout part of their daily routine.

What makes iDANCE, iSTEP, and similar games particularly appealing to children is that they can play with their friends and family. The camaraderie and support in a group exercise motivate kids to stick with the workout routine. The video game aspect, being intrinsically motivating, leaves children more energized and can inspire them to engage in sports and other vigorous activities that involve group play.

Here are some of the factors that children who play active video games benefit from:

Improved fitness level and physical skills

The amount of energy expended in exergaming is equal to that in moderate or vigorous exercise, depending on the players’ level. Like any other form of exercise, iDANCE and other active games have a beneficial effect on health and can significantly improve children’s agility, motor skills and cardiovascular endurance, as well as their sensory motor learning. Active games that encourage players to jump and maintain balance are known to improve balance by up to 30% in the long term!

The physical skills acquired through exergaming include balance, improved reaction time, endurance, coordination and speed. As an additional benefit, these skills are transferable to other activities and have the potential to boost physical activity in children and motivate them to engage in traditional forms of exercise and sports. This in turn benefits their physical, cognitive and social development even more down the line.

Exergaming is known to improve levels of activity in students. Schools that have introduced exergaming to their curriculum have recorded a 33% increase in activity, as active video gaming is an activity children genuinely enjoy.

Weight loss

Childhood obesity and lack of physical activity among children have grown to epidemic proportions in western countries in recent decades. Other than increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, obesity has a number of other negative effects on children, with their self-esteem and motivation being the first in the line of fire. Video games, computers, television and other screen activities are often blamed for the decrease in physical activity in children and teenagers.

Exergaming and machine dance can assist in weight loss. While the energy expenditure depends on the level of the game, research has shown that active video gaming has a small but definite effect on the body mass index in obese and overweight children, and that time spent playing active games tends to increase. Studies of individual exergames over a longer period of time have yet to be conducted, but the existing ones show that the moderate exercise required to complete tasks and the reduction of sedentary activity and everything that usually comes with it (snacks, for one thing) can indeed help children lose weight and improve their body composition. Among different types of exergames studied so far, dance games are the ones with the highest energy expenditure level. While playing, children burn three times as many calories than at rest.


Both children who engage in sports and those who play passive video games benefit from their hobbies, as each activity has a positive effect on their cognitive skills by itself. Research has shown that video games improve a number of factors that are vital to children’s academic performance, including their attention capacity, problem solving skills, pattern recognition, task switching ability, hypothesis testing, and estimation among other things. Physical activity, on the other hand, is known to improve cognitive skills in children and adolescents, including their perceptual and verbal skills, developmental level, and even their intelligence quotient. This is why exercise is vital for children and adolescents, as it affects how their brain develops and has a longer lasting effect compared to the one fitness activities have on adults and seniors.

Like other vigorous physical activities, exergaming is known to improve academic performance among students by building new neurological connections that enhance memory, learning and critical thinking. Schools that have introduced exergaming to their activities have recorded a grade average increase by 1.5 grades, reading scores 17% higher than the state average, and math scores 18% better than the state average. As an aside, schools that use exergames to boost their students’ activity level in the morning are seeing a significant decrease in tardiness.

The level of fitness that results from exergaming and other forms of aerobic exercise enhances neurological and physiological mechanisms, increases neurotransmitter availability and cerebral circulation, and these processes lead to an improved cognitive performance. With iDANCE and other games similar in nature, children also benefit from an improved attention capacity, better processing skills and task-switching ability. All these factors can and often do result in a better performance at school.

Social benefits

Active gaming can be particularly appealing to shy, withdrawn children, who do not usually engage in group activities easily and who sometimes do not get enough exercise to stay healthy for this very reason. Exergaming allows them to both play games and get some exercise without leaving the house. In a group exercise, it helps that the players are focused on the arrows on the screen and their attention does not drift from completing the task to their body or performance compared to others. This can be liberating for children who are too self-aware or not very talented at sports. Without the competitiveness and pressure to perform on a team that comes with other group activities, children’s progress and competence level can also have a positive effect on their self-esteem. Beyond that, like any other kind of exercise, active games help decrease stress levels and improve mood.

Even though kids should get at least some of their exercise outside, exergaming is an excellent supplement to their other activities and, needless to say, an excellent alternative to sedentary video gaming, surfing the internet, watching television, and other activities kids usually engage in at home. In addition to that, games like iDANCE, which have grown into a global phenomenon, have also built a global social network of players. This allows children and adolescents to share experiences, socialize online, and find new friends who share similar interests.

iDanceGame iStepGame impactArcade