If you think playing a Wii sport game is helping your child exercise, think again.

Under laboratory conditions, children using Wii video games have been shown to reach vigorous levels of exertion. But left to their own devices at home, it is a completely different story.

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US researchers found that kids playing popular "active" games such as "Wii Fit Plus," Wii Sports" and "Dance Dance Revolution" engaged in no more physical activity than those using passive games such as "Disney Sing It," "Mario Kart" or "Super Mario Galaxy."

The findings of the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, come as some schools in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) trial using Wii programs as a supplement to some sports.

Kids Sports NSW owner Steve Gordon was surprised the active games did not score higher. However he said video sport, while better than no movement at all, was a poor substitute for the real thing.

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"The reality is Wii is more of an individual game and for gross motor skills and mobility you will benefit more from the actual thing," he said.

"In soccer training you sprint towards the ball and use speed work and movement but you don't do that with Wii because you are standing in one spot.

"With real sports you also need to learn how to work with your teammates and you learn the life skills and social skills of how to play in a team. "

The study, by the Children's Nutrition Research Center in Texas, fitted 84 children aged between nine and 12 years with accelerometers.

The lack of additional physical activity meant the devices had no public health benefits, the authors said. The study also suggested kids may quickly become bored with video games.

"The [children] either did not elect to play the games at the [high] level of intensity or compensated for the increased intensity by being less active at other times of the day. None of the active video games had a narrative or story wrapping an engaging narrative around the activity," the study said.

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