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.
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 DOI: 10.1080/13548500903281088