Week of January 4, 2010
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

AICR HealthTalk
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Do active video games such as Wii count toward recommended amounts of physical activity?

A: Playing video games that involve movement and increase a player’s heart rate and breathing noticeably would be considered moderate physical activity. Moderate physical activity feels like you are exerting yourself 5 or 6 on a scale of 0 to 10. Another sign of moderate-intensity activity is that you can talk but not sing. Researchers are just beginning to objectively study the impact of active video games on overall level of physical activity and fitness, mostly among children and teens. Results are mixed, but a few studies suggest that games such as Wii boxing and Dance Dance Revolution played at skill level 2, do involve moderate activity. Others, such as Wii bowling and golf and Dance Dance Revolution played at the lowest skill level involve lower levels of activity, though clearly a step up from the more sedentary activity of watching television. Actually, the intensity of activity considered moderate for any individual depends on his or her level of fitness. So for some people whose sedentary lifestyle, illness or excess weight has led to a low level of fitness, even the less demanding video games involving whole body movement may actually be moderate activity. Recommendations for lower cancer risk and better overall health advise us all to accumulate 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily; those who seek weight loss will get better results by working up to 60 minutes a day. Tune in to your body signals to determine if what you play would be considered moderate activity or if it is simply decreasing sedentary time (a separate but also worthy goal).

Q: Is applesauce as good a source of antioxidants as fresh apples?

A: Unsweetened applesauce is a nutritious, low-calorie source of natural antioxidant plant compounds, but not as rich a source as fresh, unpeeled apples. Making applesauce results in a loss of about 30 percent of apples’ total antioxidant content and about half of their quercetin (a particular antioxidant compound that’s been linked with good health). Much of that loss also occurs when peeling an apple, but some additional loss may come in the heating and other processing in the production of applesauce. Applesauce and peeled apples contain only about half the dietary fiber of unpeeled apples. However, because apples are so concentrated in antioxidant phytochemicals, even these losses leave applesauce higher in antioxidants than many other vegetables and fruits, so it’s still a good choice. For new ways to include apples in your diet, try them in green and fruit salads and cooked with vegetables such as carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes.

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