Exergames: A Boost for Physical Education

In an article published in the journal Nature, researchers examined the impact of exergames on student performance in physical education (PE) learning. Through a meta-analysis of 16 randomized controlled trials involving 2962 subjects, they concluded that exergames effectively enhance PE learning outcomes. Moreover, the authors suggested that introducing exergames in small kindergarten classes and maintaining their use for one–two months could yield better results. 

Study: Exergames: A Boost for Physical Education. Image credit: Monkey Business Images /Shutterstock
Study: Exergames: A Boost for Physical Education. Image credit: Monkey Business Images /Shutterstock


Childhood obesity has reached alarming levels globally, with over 340 million children and adolescents aged five–19 classified as overweight or obese. This epidemic is exacerbated by insufficient physical activity, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Despite WHO guidelines suggesting at least 60 minutes of daily moderate physical activity for children, a staggering 81% of adolescents fail to meet this requirement.

Introducing new technologies into teaching, such as exergames (active video gaming combining exercise and gaming), presents a promising solution to promote physical activity among children and adolescents. While previous research has explored exergames' applications in clinical rehabilitation, health promotion, and cognitive training, empirical evidence supporting their effectiveness in educational settings remains limited.

Concerns linger regarding whether exergames can sufficiently enhance PE learning outcomes. Additionally, there is a lack of research addressing specific questions, such as the ideal class size and stage of study for implementing exergames. To address these gaps, this study investigated the impact of exergames on student PE learning outcomes through meta-analysis.

By systematically analyzing 16 randomized controlled trials involving 2962 subjects, this research provided insights into the effectiveness of exergames in improving PE learning. Furthermore, it explored the optimal conditions for implementing exergames, including class size and duration, offering valuable guidance for educators and policymakers seeking to integrate exergames into PE curricula.


The study utilized a systematic approach to collect and analyze data from various databases, including Wanfang, Web of Science, ProQuest, PubMed, and EBSCO, covering the period from January 2001 to November 2023. Inclusion criteria were set based on the population-intervention-comparison-outcome-study design(PICOS) principle: population (schooled students), intervention (exergames in PE teaching), comparison (traditional teaching methods), outcome (PE learning outcomes), and study design (quasi-experiments). Exclusion criteria included repeated publications, lack of specific experimental test scores, and non-Chinese or English literature.

Literature screening involved independent evaluation by two researchers, initially based on titles and abstracts and then through full-text examination. The Cochrane risk of bias assessment tool was applied to assess the quality of included studies based on seven indicators. Statistical analysis, performed using Revman 5.4 software, included effect size pooling, heterogeneity testing, and subgroup analysis. Effect sizes were calculated as standardized mean differences (SMD) with a 95% confidence interval.

Data extraction covered basic information, study subjects, interventions, measurements, and eigenvalue coding for subsequent analyses. Eigenvalues were coded to reflect the relationship between exergames and PE learning efficiency, with moderating variables such as school stage, class size, and experimental period considered. School stages were classified into child, elementary, and secondary levels, while class sizes were categorized as small, medium, or large. Experimental cycles were divided into three periods: zero-one months, one–two months, and less than or equal to three months. Overall, this methodological approach ensured the comprehensive identification, selection, and evaluation of relevant literature, as well as the rigorous analysis of data to investigate the impact of exergames on student PE learning outcomes.


The study commenced with an extensive search across seven electronic databases, yielding 1494 relevant studies, from which 137 duplicates were removed. Further screening based on titles and abstracts excluded 1321 studies, leading to a detailed examination of the remaining 36 articles. After assessing full texts, 20 studies with incomplete data or inappropriate designs were eliminated, leaving 16 studies meeting the inclusion criteria for meta-analysis. These 16 studies encompassed a total of 2962 subjects, including experimental and control groups.

The participants, spanning early childhood to secondary school, experienced interventions involving exergames in PE classes. Experimental periods varied from acute interventions to interventions lasting up to nine months. Outcome measures included both cognitive and non-cognitive aspects of PE learning. The methodological quality assessment revealed varying degrees of bias across studies, with notable adherence to outcome reporting and minimal follow-up bias.

Publication bias was assessed using a funnel plot, indicating a minimal bias among the included studies. The random-effect model was employed due to the high heterogeneity among studies. Subgroup analyses revealed that exergames positively impacted both cognitive and non-cognitive dimensions of learning. Exergames were found to have a significant positive effect on PE learning across different school stages, class sizes, and experimental cycles. Notably, the most significant effects were observed in smaller class sizes and during one–two-month experimental cycles.


The discussion underscored the positive effect of exergames on student PE, attributing it to factors like entertainment value, enhanced participation, and tailored learning environments. Exergames significantly improved both cognitive and non-cognitive abilities, with the greatest effects observed in younger students. Optimal results occurred in smaller class sizes and shorter experimental cycles, reflecting increased engagement and novelty. Integrating exergames into PE curricula offered a promising avenue for promoting active learning and enhancing student motivation and skill development.


In conclusion, this research demonstrated that exergames effectively enhance student performance in PE learning, particularly benefiting younger students in smaller class sizes and shorter experimental cycles. The findings highlighted the potential of integrating exergames into PE curricula to promote active learning and improve both cognitive and non-cognitive abilities. This underscored the importance of leveraging technology to address contemporary challenges in physical education and combat childhood obesity.

Journal reference:
Soham Nandi

Written by

Soham Nandi

Soham Nandi is a technical writer based in Memari, India. His academic background is in Computer Science Engineering, specializing in Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning. He has extensive experience in Data Analytics, Machine Learning, and Python. He has worked on group projects that required the implementation of Computer Vision, Image Classification, and App Development.


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