Effects of Exergaming on Physical Activity in Overweight Individuals



The majority of patients with overweight and type 2 diabetes show insufficient levels of daily physical activity (PA) and usually are among the least likely to engage in or adhere to any form of generic PA. Active video games (exergames) may be a solution to motivate these individuals to overcome their sedentary lifestyle.


This systematic review was conducted to review the current evidence for the effectiveness of exergaming in overweight and type 2 diabetes mellitus and thus to evaluate the suitability of these games to be used as tools for exercise promotion that meet current PA guidelines.


We searched electronic bibliographic databases (PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, OpenGrey, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials) up to March 2015. Randomized controlled trials (RCT) and cross-sectional studies published in English in a peer-reviewed journal and analyzing the effects of exergames on objectively measured intensity parameters of PA in overweight (body mass index [BMI] ≥25 kg/m2) adults (mean age ≥18 years) with and without type 2 diabetes were included. Study selection, data extraction, and quality assessment were performed independently by two review authors. Primary outcomes included changes in oxygen uptake (VO2), energy expenditure (EE), heart rate (HR), or activity counts. Secondary outcomes were enjoyment of treatment, exercise adherence, ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), changes in body composition, and changes in blood parameters (serum glucose, long-term blood glucose, blood cholesterol, triglycerides, or serum lactate).


Of 2845 records, 14 publications (11 studies) met the inclusion criteria. All included studies (ten experimental, cross-sectional laboratory studies and one RCT) were able to show increases in either VO2, EE, HR, or activity counts. However, effects of exergaming in terms of changes in these intensity parameters varied significantly between game modes and consoles as well as because of the vastly differing durations of exergame activity between studies. One of the included studies had a low risk of bias, and three had a high risk of bias; seven studies had an unclear risk of bias as the study description was insufficient. No studies were found investigating the changes in objectively measured PA intensity parameters in patients with type 2 diabetes.


This review suggests that exergames are able to increase PA among overweight individuals. However, the inconsistent results and the overall poor or moderate methodological quality do not permit judgment on whether exergames are suitable to meet PA guidelines in this target group. The lack of research regarding the effects of exergames in type 2 diabetes indicates a great need for future research.

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Correspondence to Arno Schmidt-Trucksäss.

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This study was conducted with internal support by the Department of Sports, Exercise and Health, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland. No external sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

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Christoph Höchsmann, Michael Schüpbach, and Arno Schmidt-Trucksäss declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.

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Höchsmann, C., Schüpbach, M. & Schmidt-Trucksäss, A. Effects of Exergaming on Physical Activity in Overweight Individuals. Sports Med 46, 845–860 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-015-0455-z

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  • Physical Activity
  • Bias Assessment
  • Overweight Individual
  • Active Video Game
  • Exercise Adherence