A group from the University of Kansas Medical Center recently published a study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior entitled, “Weight loss programs via virtual reality.”
In the experiment, a group of 20 overweight and obese individuals took part in a 9-month-long study. For the first 3 months, the subjects took part in a clinical weight loss program in which they had weekly education about weight loss. Some of the participants went to the weekly meetings in real life while others participated through a virtual game called Second Life.
In the first 3 months both groups lost the same amount of weight, but for the final 6 months, the participants participated in a maintenance program, in person or on Second Life.
Amazingly, the people who participated virtually lost more weight than the ones participating in real life.
Now, before you decide sitting around playing video games all day is your new weight loss plan, remember that this study only involved 20 people, not a large sample size. Also, these people were essentially participating in weight loss and maintenance lectures.
According to the publication, some of the reasons proposed for the added success include:
There are many barriers that can interfere with weight loss. For those attending face-to-face weight loss programs, barriers can include travel, conflict with work and home, need for childcare, and loss of anonymity.
To further explain how Second Life can be used in this capacity, Dr. Sullivan explains, “Individuals who want to participate in real-life scenarios without real-life repercussions can use virtual reality. For example, participants can practice meal planning, grocery shopping, and dietary control when eating at restaurants and holiday parties to a much greater extent with Second Life compared with the time-limited clinic meeting. Virtual reality may even be able to serve as a more feasible option to monitor individuals after completing a weight loss program.”
The bottom line is additional education, and ultimately additional accountability can make a major difference in successful weight loss.
To find a happy median between real life and virtual life, perhaps try out games on the Wii Fit. These games not only give you weight loss tips but they also encourage you to complete calorie burning and strength training activities. They also track your progress helping you to celebrate your accomplishments.
Also consider looking into a weight loss or health coach for support.