Is Wii Worthy of American Heart Association Accolade?

For years, the American Heart Association Healthy Check logo has appeared on packaging in the grocery store -- and soon the AHA's name will appear on the Nintendo Wii video game system.

ABC News Senior Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser sat down with Dr. Clyde Yancy, president of the American Heart Association, to ask about the real science behind the health benefits of "active" video games like the Wii, and whether so-called "exergaming" deserves the AHA's stamp of approval, despite research that has linked time playing video games with obesity.

"We can ignore the audience that is engaged with gaming -- a huge audience -- or we can find different ways of engaging that audience," Yancy said. "Certainly there are games within the Nintendo portfolio that are more sedentary, but to their credit they've pioneered physically active gaming."

Still, there are many exercise-linked products -- baseballs, basketballs and other sports equipment included -- that don't have the AHA's logo. The reason, Yancy told Besser, is that the Heart Association's "corporate relationship policy" means that there is a "very deliberate process that must be considered" when determining who gets the AHA's endorsement. Plus, there is no denying the growing popularity of these video games.

"We have to engage consumers and citizens and the public where they are," Yancy said. "The burden of heart disease and stroke is too much."

AHA Heart Healthy Logo May Sway Public

"The evidence is really inconclusive," said Janet Fulton, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "The amount of activity one achieves from this active gaming is really inconclusive in terms of its benefits on health.

"I believe only boxing kind of hit the mark in terms of being of moderate intensity."

And even the most intense video game has its limits. According to a study in the journal Pediatrics, active gaming is no substitute for real sports and activities. For example, real boxing burns 200 percent more energy than Wii boxing.

"The more logos appear on products that are only tangentially associated with health benefits, the more the public is going to wonder about the appearance of these logos," said David Rothman, president of the Institute on Medicine as a Profession. "Soon rather than later, the public's going to understand that this is a commercial transaction."

According to marketing documents from the AHA, the Association's Heart Check Mark logo is one of the most recognizable and respected labels around. The documents further show that the label is proven to boost sales for products that carry it.

ABC News asked if, as part of the agreement, Nintendo had paid money to the AHA. Yancy said Nintendo did provide a $1.5 million gift over three years in an exclusive relationship.

"Certainly resources have exchanged hands, because it takes quite a bit to launch a new initiative," Yancy told Besser. "And to the credit of our corporate partner, the resources we receive are received for the broad construct of heart health and messaging to use physically active play to increase activity in many sedentary individuals."

As for concerns that the agreement with Nintendo could damage the integrity of the AHA, Yancy said his "greater concern is if we don't engage the millions of people who are physically inactive right now.

"The logo's not for sale. What we're doing is promoting a message that's incredibly important."

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