For anyone who has tried it, losing weight, especially a large amount of weight, takes considerable time and commitment. But a new study finds that 3D virtual reality video games played at home could help with the process.
Researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center in the U.S. looked to a virtual reality platform called Second Life, which involves creating avatars and interacting in a virtual world. Through the game, participants can practice meal planning, grocery shopping, and dietary control when dining out, all while communicating with other avatars.
To see how the virtual experience measures up against face-to-face meetings, the research team enlisted 20 overweight and obese subjects who followed a three-month weight loss program at a weekly clinic or via virtual reality gaming at home. In addition, subjects continued weight-loss maintenance for six months afterward either via face-to-face meetings or the virtual reality world.
While the gaming didn't measure up to face-to-face meetings in terms of weight loss, Second Life players did a better job of keeping the weight from creeping back up than those who participated in face-to-face meetings.
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"Although we found weight loss was significantly greater for face-to-face compared to virtual reality, weight maintenance was significantly better for virtual reality," said lead researcher Debra Sullivan. The findings will appear in the May/June issue of Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
In a separate study, researchers from the University of Missouri in the U.S. suggested that people using Second Life could create fitter, healthier avatars, which in turn can help participants visualize themselves that way too. That study was published last November in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.