When 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.
- Exercise and depression. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-and-depression-report-excerpt
- Obesity and overweight. (2015, June 02). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm
- 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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