Friday, 26 February 2010

Video-game exercise bikes - not just a gimmick

Exercise is going techno. People are playing Wii fit sports games in their homes and gyms are full of ever more interactive exercise machines. But is this trend anything more than gimmickry? Yes, according to a new study by Ryan Rhodes at the Behavioural Medicine Lab at the University of Victoria, and his colleagues.

Rhodes' team had 29 previously inactive young men embark on an exercise regime, involving three half-hour cycling sessions a week for six weeks. Crucially, half the men trained on GameBikes wired up to a Playstation, such that their peddling speed and steering interacted with in-game events. The remaining participants trained on standard low-tech exercise bikes, although they were allowed to enjoy their own choice of music over an ipod. Exercise intensity was equalised across the two groups.

The bottom-line: the men who trained on the GameBikes were more likely to stick to the exercise regime. They attended an average of 77 per cent of the sessions compared with 42 per cent of participants in the low-tech control condition.

Rhodes' team also took some psychological measures in line with the well-established theory of planned of behaviour. Only 'affective attitudes' were found to differ between the two exercise groups. That is, men in the GameBike condition expected the exercise regime to be more enjoyable, pleasant and exciting than control participants, partly explaining their greater adherence. Attitudes in both groups had declined by the end of the six-week period, but they remained more positive in the GameBike group than the controls.

The researchers said more research was needed with other participant groups (the men in the current study all had personal experience of video games), over a longer duration, and with different control conditions - for example, how does video-game based exercise compare with low tech outdoors exercise?

'In summary, exercise videogaming appears to have potential efficacy as a physical activity intervention,' the researchers concluded.
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ResearchBlogging.orgRhodes, 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 DOI: 10.1080/13548500903281088

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

8 comments:

  1. This is interesting enough, but CompuTrainer systems have been used by cyclists for a number of years for indoor training. Of course, if you invest this much in computerized equipment, you will have a tendency to use it more than just using a standard exercise bike.

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  2. Thanks for discussing this study. I'm still on the fence about this type of tool for increasing physical activity - studies like this suggest that it holds some promise, but I'm skeptical that it will result in a long-term increase in physical activity, especially among those who need it most. I also worry that systems like this (but especially the Wii) may do more in developing a love of video games, rather than a love of physical activity, which may do more harm than good in the long run.

    I'm glad that you brought up the authors' call for future research, especially given that this study was just 6 weeks in duration. There is no doubt that active gaming can be a useful tool in some specific situations (e.g. physiotherapy), but there are a lot more questions when it comes to reducing physical inactivity.

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  3. This is highly interesting and thought-provoking. Research into the longer-term maintenance of this activity and its prospective effects on other forms of physical activity uptake and maintenance (possibly with exercise self-efficacy as a mediator) would build upon the evidence base.

    I'm also wondering if the effect is the same in females? And would this be a good way of engaging overweight children who already have an interest in computer games in physical activity?

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  4. These types of studies will need more information before they have definite trends.

    I love to ride my 10 speed bike, and do not need anyone to motivate me to get outside.

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  5. Hearing these types of studies really worries me about our society, because I grew up in an era when being active and outside was the only thing to do, and it seems like that is no longer the case. We are resorting to videos games for our physical activity, wow the human race is getting really lazy.

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  6. I will never understand how anybody prefers to go to the gym never mind cycle/run/jump in front of a computer game, it just sounds crazy to me! Get outside get some sun light and purge your body of all that carbon dioxide and monoxide. Interesting read, thanks.

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  7. I think that there is nothing better than the real thing.

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  8. Contrary to those above, anything that motivates people to exercise is a good thing. Some of you must have completely missed the note about how the video game bike riders came back more often than the control group (which was presumably doing what all of you like to do). If games keep people coming back to exercise then they are good thing.

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