Can exergaming boost mental health in university students?


Objectives: Exergaming pairs conventional video game technology with motion-sensors to encourage physical activity behaviour. Previous studies have documented the physical health benefits of exergaming, yet less attention has been focused on the mental health consequences of exergaming particularly among university students. This study examined the role of exergaming relative to mental health reported by university students by addressing these questions: (1) Is exergaming associated with better mental health than non-exergaming? (2) Does the intensity of exergaming participation impact mental health? Methods: Using a non-experimental design, 53 'exergamers' (58.49% female; 84.91% White) and 53 'non-exergamers' (69.81% female; 81.13% White) completed a web-based questionnaire on a single occasion assessing demographics, exergaming (frequency/duration of moderate/vigorous intensity exergaming), and mental health indicators (stress, anxiety, flourishing, and vitality). Results: Simple linear regression analyses using group status as the predictor variable indicated no link with any mental health variable (R2's 0.30). Moderate and vigorous intensity exergaming was correlated with mental health (r's = -0.50 to 0.44) in the subsample of exergamers. Simultaneous entry multiple regression analyses indicated moderate-intensity exergaming was the only significant predictor of mental health accounting for up to 10.0 percent unique variance (R2's = 0.15 to 0.29). Discussion: Overall, it appears that exergaming does not confer unique benefits on mental health for university students at least compared to non-exergaming. Yet regular exergamers participating at moderate-intensity levels may experience mental health benefits.

Acknowledgments: This research was funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.