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Are Video Games A Weapon in the War Against Obesity?
Written by September 20, 2010

Ruth Ann Carpenter, MS, RD

Lead Integrator
Health Integration, LLC

Tags
attitude
cycling
exercise adherence
ipod
technology
video games
Are Video Games A Weapon in the War Against Obesity?

Technology is everywhere and the fitness center is no exception. From TV’s and iPods to interactive video games, it’s hard to find people exercising without some technological distraction to make exercise more enjoyable. Although technology can add spice to any new activity initially, what about after the newness wears off? Researchers1 from the University of Victoria in Canada studied the effects of music vs. video games on exercise adherence and attitude.

Dr. Rhodes and his colleagues studied 29 inactive young men who volunteered to participate in a six week exercise program. Subjects were randomly assigned to listen to self-selected music or play interactive video games while cycling three days per week for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity. One group listened to music using an iPod while the others used bikes connected to a Playstation. The video group interacted with in-game events by changing pedal speed and steering.

Participants also completed tests to measure changes in planned behavior (Theory of Planned Behavior) like attitudes/beliefs and the influence of others in predicting one’s behavior. Researchers wanted to determine if cycling with video games improved exercise adherence and if there were differences in attitudes between groups. The subjects completed the test of planned behavior at the end of the first workout and after six weeks of exercise.

Men who cycled to video games showed better adherence than those who listened to self-selected music; the video game group participated in 77% of workouts compared to the iPod group that attended 42%. The test for measuring components of planned behavior showed that men who played video games expected the exercise to be more enjoyable and exciting than the music only group. This difference in attitude contributed to the better adherence in the interactive video game group. More research for longer durations is needed.  Also, the men in this study had personal experience playing video games so the results may be different in women and other groups (children, seniors, etc.).  

Another study2 compared cycling at the same workloads (25%, 50% and 75% of maximum power) with no music or technology to cycling while playing interactive video games. At moderate to vigorous exercise intensities, caloric expenditure and heart rate were higher when playing video games with no increase in perceived effort. These results are promising given the power of motivation that technology seems to have over most Americans. If technology can be used to increase time spent exercising and caloric expenditure, it could prove to be a vital weapon in the fight against obesity and diabetes.

1.  Rhodes, R., Warburton, D. & Bredin, S. (2009). Predicting the effect of interactive video bikes on exercise adherence: An efficacy trial. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 14(6), 631-640.

2.  Wharburton, D.E. R., Sarkany, D., Johnson, M., et al. (2009). Metabolic Requirements of Interactive Video Game Cycling. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 41(4), 920-926.

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