How a Computer Game Can Help You Lose Weight

Bowls of varied snack foodsWhen seeking to optimize physical health, many people turn to the gym.  Exercise also offers mental health benefits and may even be as effective at treating depression and anxiety as some medications. But exercise can come from some surprising sources. For those who dislike the idea of abandoning video games in order to sweat at the gym, there is good news: A computer game developed by researchers at the University of Exeter has, according to a study published in Appetite, helped some players lose weight.

Online Gaming: A Weight Loss Secret?

For many of those who are dieting, losing weight and keeping it off requires significant resolve. A game developed by Natalia Lawrence, a cognitive neuroscientist and lecturer at the University of Exeter, aims to help those trying to lose weight to boost their willpower. In the game, players must select healthy food choices, such as fruit, and non-food images, such as clothing. They must avoid clicking on images of unhealthy foods after repeatedly clicking on images of things that are healthy. This, the study claims, trains players to associate unhealthy foods with “stopping.”

Researchers invited 41 adults who were classified as overweight by CDC standards to play the game for four 10-minute sessions. A group of 43 adults acted as the control group and did not play the game. Both groups maintained food diaries. Six months after playing the game, players reported liking unhealthy foods less than those who did not play the game and that they had reduced their daily calorie consumption by approximately 220 calories. Game players lost 1.5 pounds in the seven days after they played the game and 4.5 pounds in the six months after playing the game.

The study was small, so further research is necessary to determine whether this sort of game can work for a larger population. Sixty-nine percent of American adults are classified as overweight or obese, so if this game continues to aid weight loss, it could offer significant public health benefits.

References:

  1. Exercise and depression. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-and-depression-report-excerpt
  2. Obesity and overweight. (2015, June 02). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm
  3. Online computer game can help shed weight and reduce food intake. (2015, June 26). Retrieved from http://www.exeter.ac.uk/news/featurednews/title_458149_en.html

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  • Jennifer

    Jennifer

    June 30th, 2015 at 4:19 PM

    I do think that there are some games that you can play that will help you to lose weight, but I do not think that someone should just rely on playing a game to lose weight. Changing your habits is the biggest key to losing weight and is the main reason I lost 65 pounds! You can read about it here musclehabit.com. You have got to put in the work to get the results.

  • Fran

    Fran

    July 3rd, 2015 at 12:29 PM

    When I saw this I wasn’t thinking so much about it being a game where you make healthy choices and things like that. But I was thinking that finding some way to get your mind of off eating and just harmful snacking in general could be a way to lose some weight. I know that it may be better to go for a walk to take your mind off the urge to snack, but hey, I guess that a video game could have the same effect. At least it is giving you something to do, although I think that I would be much happier doing it outside than in front of a screen. Small steps, right?

  • Mike

    Mike

    July 3rd, 2015 at 10:06 PM

    Jennifer, I don’t think anyone is claiming you lose weight merely by playing the game–rather it supports that change in habits you talk about. And habits can be very powerful forces, so any support is appreciated. I wish I could get a copy of this game.

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