Great News for 57 Million Americans

When did the local fitness center become a technology hotbed?  From TV’s and iPods to interactive video games, it’s hard to find people exercising without some tech-toy to make exercise more enjoyable.  Which tech-diversion could have the most long-lasting impact for wellness seekers participating in physical activity?  Researchers from the University of Victoria in Canada studied the effects of music vs. video games on exercise adherence and attitude. The results could be great news for anyone whose life is touched by diabetes.
Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of preventable death in the US with over 24 million people diagnosed with diabetes with 5.7 million not yet diagnosed and an additional 35.4% of adults age 60 and older are at risk for developing the disease. Perhaps more alarming, it is estimated thatover 57 million American adults have “pre-diabetes.”
Dr. Rhodes and his colleagues studied 29 inactive young men who volunteered to participate in a 6- week exercise program. Subjects were randomly assigned to listen to self-selected music or play interactive video games while cycling three days per week for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity. One group listened to music using an iPod while the others used bikes connected to a Playstation. The video group interacted with in-game events by changing pedal speed and steering.
Participants also completed tests to measure changes in planned behavior (Theory of Planned Behavior) like attitudes/beliefs and the influence of others in predicting one’s behavior. Researchers wanted to determine if cycling with video games improved exercise adherence and if there were differences in attitudes between groups.
Men who cycled to video games showed better adherence than those who listened to self-selected music; the video game group participated in 77% of workouts compared to the iPod group that attended 42%. The test for measuring components of planned behavior showed that men who played video games expected the exercise to be more enjoyable and exciting than the music only group. This difference in attitude contributed to the better adherence in the interactive video game group.
Another study compared cycling at the same workloads (25%, 50% and 75% of maximum power) with no music or technology to cycling while playing interactive video games. At moderate to vigorous exercise intensities, caloric expenditure and heart rate were higher when playing video games with no increase in perceived effort. These results are promising given the power of motivation that technology seems to have over most Americans. If exergame technology can be used to increase time spent exercising and caloric expenditure, it could prove to be a vital weapon in the fight against obesity and diabetes.
1.  Rhodes, R., Warburton, D. & Bredin, S. (2009). Predicting the effect of interactive video bikes on exercise adherence: An efficacy trial. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 14(6), 631-640.
2.  Wharburton, D.E. R., Sarkany, D., Johnson, M., et al. (2009). Metabolic Requirements of Interactive Video Game Cycling. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 41(4), 920-926.
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