A recent study performed at Temple University’s Centre for Obesity Research and Education, in Philadelphia, U.S. has shown that overweight women are able to lose weight simply by looking a computer generated version of themselves.
It is believed that the act of watching yourself workout enables them to learn these new healthier behaviours.
What did the study involve?
Previous studies have shown how virtual reality could reinforce good habits so the lead scientist, Dr Napolitano wanted to discover whether it could aid weight loss.
First she asked 128 overweight women a series of questions including had they attempted to lose weight in the past year and had they ever used a virtual reality game.
Although most had never used virtual reality 88% were willing to try this approach in an effort to lose weight.
In fact most thought that an avatar could help to encourage more healthier lifestyle choices.
To test the concept a variety of videos were created showing an avatar in a variety of situations, from walking to picking food in the supermarket.
The avatar’s themselves were made to resemble the participants in order for them to visualise and learn these new behaviours.
8 overweight women were chosen for the next part of the study, which involved them watching the videos over a four week period.
The chosen women were asked to visit the clinic once a week, where they would then have to watch a 15 minute DVD featuring their own avatar undertaking various healthy activities.
What were the results?
At the conclusion of the study it was discovered that the women who took part in the second par of the study lost an average of 3.5lbs, which is around the usual amount lost on a traditional diet plan.
Dr Napolitano had this to say:
“This is just the first step to show that women, even those who are not gamers, are interested in an avatar-based technology to help them with a weight-loss plan.
We are excited by the potential of this technology as a scalable tool to help people learn the skills to be successful at weight loss over the long run.
This pilot study showed that you don’t have to be a gamer to use virtual reality to learn some important skills for weight loss.
This small study suggests that virtual reality could be a promising new tool for building healthier habits.”