Can Video Games Help You Lose Weight?

Living / Health & Fitness

Can Video Games Help You Lose Weight?

By: Nicole Capo

Video games have long been associated with kids spending way too much time on the couch, eating all kinds of awful junk food. But, as it turns out, video games might actually be able to be used in the fight against obesity .

A report published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology found promising initial results on a study determining whether virtual reality “alter egos,” or avatars, can aid people in losing weight.

The study was based on the premise that we highly identify with avatars that look like us, and a former study at Stanford University found that people who see their own avatars running on treadmills are much more likely to decide to go for a run the next day. This latest study, led by George Washington University public health professor Melissa Napolitano, was divided into two phases — the first was a simple survey determining whether women who had previously attempted, and failed, to lose weight would have any interest in using virtual reality games that taught them to visualize healthy habits. The second phase involved a small test group of women who watched 15-minute avatar-based videos of healthy eating and exercising habits once a week over a month-long period. The women lost an average of 3.5 lbs over the course of the study.

Though it doesn’t seem like much, the fact that women are willing to test out new methods of dieting and exercising is actually quite promising. Obesity rates in the United States are some of the highest in the world, with 35.7% of adults and 17% of children falling under that category. And there’s no magic solution — as with any invasive procedure, gastric bypass surgery comes with its own set of risks, and the only real way to lose weight and stay healthy is by changing your lifestyle habits, not by trying out the latest diet trend. In fact, people who go on low-calorie diets are far more likely to regain the weight they lose than the folks who make more moderate diet changes.

So the next time your mom tells you to stop playing video games, keep calm and just tell her you’re working on your diet plan.

[Pic via Flickr - Marco Arment]

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