Virtual reality can make your weight loss a real life, visual reality. The sedentary past time of gaming—one of the roots of childhood obesity—has been proven to have positive applications in dieting. Researchers at Temple University employed the use of avatars—lifelike, virtual replications of real people—to demonstrate what healthy lifestyle habits look like. The findings were published in the July issue of the Journal of Diabetes, Science, and Technology.
Health professor Melissa Napolitano led the study, and said the 128 overweight women who participated were held accountable by observing their pixelated video game characters. “When an avatar looks like you, it increases self-efficacy, which is somebody’s confidence that they themselves have the ability to do that act,” she said. “You can visualize yourself doing something and realize, ‘Wow, it’s really not that hard.'”
The women spent four weeks watching the customized avatar learn about healthy nutritional and fitness behaviors. These visualizations spurred the women to adopt some of these habits, and they each lost an average of 3.5 pounds per week. This isn’t the first scientific study to use virtual reality as a medical tool. Virtual reality has been used as a recovery option for stroke victims and injured athletes, and there are a small number of studies that used the technology for weight loss. In May, The University of Kansas conducted a similar experiment, concluding, “Virtual reality compares favorably to face-to-face [weight management] for weight loss and may encourage greater weight maintenance.” Additionally, a software called Archimedes collects personal data and creates a virtual reality to predict risk for diabetes.
It’s no secret we identify with technology more than ever, but overuse and over-reliance on instant gratification systems has a stigma of laziness. Virtual reality weight loss technology is the latest concept in a series of diet tech innovations; weight loss betting sites, weight loss apps and really awesome diet review websites help us all stay healthy. The Wii Fit combines the fun of interactive gaming with exercise, and The Biggest Loser even has their own Wii game. According to TED.com, the global population spends three billion hours a week playing video games. If weight loss gaming can slice into that number by just one percent the worldwide weight loss could be dramatic. But gamers should still go outside once in a while.