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Weight loss programs via virtual reality

Date:
April 26, 2013
Source:
Elsevier Health Sciences
Summary:
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. In a new study investigators continue to explore alternative weight management delivery methods to eliminate some of these barriers. The solution they are investigating -- virtual reality for weight loss and weight maintenance.

Weight loss is a topic of concern for nearly 36% of Americans who are considered obese. 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.

In a new study released in the May/June 2013 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, investigators from The University of Kansas Medical Center continue to explore alternative weight management delivery methods to eliminate some of these barriers. The solution they are investigating -- virtual reality for weight loss and weight maintenance.

Looking at the results from twenty overweight and obese individuals after 3 months of a weight loss program at a weekly clinic delivered via face-to-face or virtual reality and then 6 months of weight maintenance delivered via virtual reality, the investigators found virtual reality compares favorably with face-to-face for weight loss and may facilitate greater weight maintenance. Debra Sullivan, lead investigator, adds, "Although we found weight loss was significantly greater for face-to-face compared to virtual reality, weight maintenance was significantly better for virtual reality."

The virtual reality weight maintenance program was conducted using Second Life, a Web-based virtual reality environment available to the public. Participants in Second Life create virtual representations of themselves, called ''avatars,'' which can interact with other avatars and navigate through the virtual world of Second Life. Voice communication is accomplished via headset, which allows for person-to-person and group interaction. Education and training takes place on an ''island,'' which is purchased from Second Life and provides restricted group access to the nutrition education/training area.

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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Elsevier Health Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Debra K. Sullivan et al. Improving Weight Maintenance Using Virtual Reality (Second Life). Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, May/June 2013

Cite This Page:

Elsevier Health Sciences. "Weight loss programs via virtual reality." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130426115628.htm>.
Elsevier Health Sciences. (2013, April 26). Weight loss programs via virtual reality. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130426115628.htm
Elsevier Health Sciences. "Weight loss programs via virtual reality." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130426115628.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

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