A Pilot Randomized, Controlled Trial of an Active Video Game Physical Activity Intervention

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Objective: Active video games (AVGs) transform the sedentary screen time of video gaming into active screen time and have great potential to serve as a “gateway” tool to a more active lifestyle for the least active individuals. This pilot randomized trial was conducted to explore the potential of theory-guided active video games in increasing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) among young adults. Method: In this pilot 4-week intervention, participants were randomly assigned to 1 of the following groups: an AVG group with all the self determination theory (SDT)–based game features turned off, an AVG group with all the SDT-based game features turned on, a passive gameplay group with all the SDT-based game features turned on, and a control group. Physical activity was measured using ActiGraph GT3X accelerometers. Other outcomes included attendance and perceived need satisfaction of autonomy, competence and relatedness. Results: It was found that playing the self-determination theory supported AVG resulted in greater MVPA compared with the control group immediately postintervention. The AVG with the theory-supported features also resulted in greater attendance and psychological need satisfaction than the non–theory-supported one. Conclusion: An AVG designed with motivation theory informed features positively impacted attendance and MVPA immediately postintervention, suggesting that including AVG features guided with motivation theory may be a method of addressing common problems with adherence and increasing effectiveness of active gaming.

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