The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Active Gifts for the Holidays

Posted in
Move more

Monday, Dec 07, 2009


Recently the Wii was confirmed again as a positive step in becoming more active compared to regular video games. “The range of energy expenditure in these active games is sufficient to prevent or improve obesity and lifestyle-related disease, from heart disease and diabetes to metabolic diseases,” according to Motohiko Miyachi, Ph.D.1 In August we took at look at calories burned playing the Wii versus doing the real activities in the blog “A Wii Bit of Physical Activity.”

But is the Wii the only active gift this holiday season? Of course not, there are a plethora of other gift ideas that can help to keep individuals moderately active. Moderate activity is defined by metabolic equivalent values, a standard method of estimating energy expenditure as a range of 3-6 METs with over 6 METs being considered vigorous intensity activity. Most individuals have a resting energy expenditure of approximately 1 to 1.6 calories per minute. Performing exercise at an intensity of 3 METs is equivalent to burning 3 times the number of calories per minute as they do at rest. So an activity that has a metabolic equivalency of 3 METs burns about 3 to 4.8 calories per minute for most individuals.

At the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2009 a study funded by Nintendo was presented that evaluated metabolic equivalent values, a standard method of estimating energy expenditure. It was found that activities in the Wii sports video games had average intensities ranging from 1.3 METs in lotus focus to 5.6 METs in the single-arm stand.

As energy expenditure was assessed in a metabolic chamber consisting of an airtight room, it was found that:

- Nine activities had less than 2 METs - Twenty-three activities had 2-3 METs - Nine activities had 3-4 METs - Five activities had more than 4 METs

Of the five sports in the Wii Sports collection, boxing is the most effective activity with an expenditure of about 4.5 METs. The most effective single exercise was found to be the single-arm stand at 5.6 METs that involves standing up and lying down.

Other gift ideas for this holiday season that help get individuals more active like the Wii has been shown to do include:

- Cranium Hullabaloo – the 2003 Toy Industry Associations Game of the year that prompts kids to jump, dance and run around. - Cat in the Hat I Can Do That! Game – kids must do certain tasks like balance an object on their nose while jumping up and down. - Balance Maze Boards – Similar to a labyrinth game but balancing with your feet.

Not to mention the more traditional big ticket active gear items that include: - Bicycles - Skates - Sleds - Scooters - Skis - Or even trampolines

But even the low cost items like Hula-Hoops, Tumbling Mats and Jump Ropes can do just as much if not more to provide plenty of active movement that will meet or exceed the requirements for moderate activity. Jumping rope has been reported to be equivalent to an energy expenditure of 8-12 METs depending on the speed. 

So while gifts like these above and active video games cause much higher energy expenditure as opposed to non-interactive games, don’t forget the value of that sporadic homemade activity. So think about skipping the newest technologically advanced gift this season and try an old fashion ball, racket or other active outdoor piece of equipment. You never know, you might be surprised how excited you or the kids around you will get with this old fashion bit of fun!

So this holiday be a role model of active living and find a way to get outside and be active with others – in a special gift or that sporadic homemade activity.

1 K. Yamamoto, Ph.D.; K. Ohkawara, Ph.D.; and S. Tanaka, Ph.D. (2009, November 16). Playing active video games can equal moderate-intensity exercise. Retrieved November 23, 2009, from The American Heart Association’s website: