Weight loss is one of life’s biggest challenges for many people, but now there could be hope in virtual reality support. Results from a recent study that included 20 overweight and obese people showed significant weight loss results after three months participating in programs that included both virtual reality and face-to-face support. Perhaps best of all, weight loss results were maintained at least six months after the completion of the study.
According to the study’s lead investigator Debra Sullivan, “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 study took place at the University of Kansas Medical Center and was released in the May/June 2013 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
Virtual Reality Program Makes Weight Loss Possible for those Unable to Participate in Real-World Programs
The positive results of this study come at a time when more than 35 percent of Americans are obese. Weight loss is a struggle for various reasons, but many people find their inability to lose weight comes down to their lack of guidance and support. Face-to-face programs can be extremely beneficial for helping overweight individuals drop excess weight, but these programs are not an option for everyone. Finding the time and having the ability to travel to these programs can be challenging, and some people just find face-to-face programs lack privacy and they are not comfortable speaking about their weight issues in person.
The virtual reality program offers hope for people dealing with all of these challenges. The program utilizes Second Life an internet-based virtual reality environment available to internet users. Second Life users create virtual avatars that interact with others and navigate the VR environment. Person-to-person and group conversation can occur via headset. Weight loss program participants purchase access to the Second Life “island” is restricted to members where they participate in a program that provides nutrition education and help with weight loss and healthy living.
Second Life Online Program Mimics Real-World Weight Loss Programs
The 20 participants who took part in the Second Life study showed similar weight loss results to participants that took part in face-to-face weight loss studies. Dr. Sullivan further explains why the results of the study are so promising for those who have a desire to lose weight but don’t have access or want to attend a real-world program:
“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.”
Bottomline: With this technology, there really is a new alternative that can provide real, lasting results for millions of people who are not serviced in the gym with typical measures by personal trainers and nutritionists. What does this mean for you? Well, if you’re in the gym and eating right as it is, you may not need VR to get you fit, but it does mean that you can use VR to get fitter than ever, which is huge considering we haven’t had a new method of getting in shape since the first time someone lifted something heavy and put it down more than once.