Tying real-world activity to video game play helped young inactive girls combat obesity, researchers at the University of Toronto have found.

The pilot project looked at a game called GOGOYU, where every step a gamer takes increases their power in the video game, providing an incentive for children to be more active.

Physical activity rates for the least active girls improved the most, researchers said at a news conference on Thursday.

“These results are encouraging, especially since inactive girls are one of the most difficult populations to engage when it comes to physical activity,” explained Michelle Brownrigg, the director of physical activity and equity at the University of Toronto.

Children were given a pedometer and divided into five groups based on how many steps they took each day.  The study looked at 128 boys and 125 girls, aged 9 to 11.

Results indicate that 69 per cent of girls falling in the lowest step count category moved up at least one category during game play, and logged an increase in daily step counts ranging from 1,000 to over 11,000 steps.

The combined daily step count average for all boys and girls also increased by 13 per cent during game play.

However, the increase among boys at any level was not significant enough for them to jump categories.
The study was conducted by Concerned Children’s Advertisers (CCA).  Brownrigg and  a team that includes physical activity researcher Dr. Guy Faulkner, evaluated the study on behalf of CCA.

According to the Ontario Medical Association, 31.5 per cent of Canadian children and teens — virtually one in three — are overweight or obese.

That’s up from 14 to 18 per cent in the early 1980s.