Virtual reality may be the next hot weight-loss tool if proven effective by science. Researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services have taken the first step to show that people who watch an avatar portray weight-loss behavior in a virtual community might shed pounds in the real world.
This is not about finding a quick fix; it’s about adapting to a new, healthier lifestyle. If proven effective, watching an avatar can be an inexpensive way to learn the skills and behavior needed to lose weight over the long run.
People in the study watched a 15-minute DVD once a week for four weeks featuring an avatar demonstrating such healthy weight loss actvities as choosing the correct portion size and intensity on a treadmill. After four weeks, participants had lost an average of 3.5 pounds, which is a fairly typical amount for traditional diet plans, Napolitano said.
While it’s not recommend to sit on your butt and watch someone else — or something else, in this case — do all the physical activity for you, theory and research tells us that seeing the steps one needs to take in order to achieve a desired goal makes behavioral change easier to accomplish, said Melissa Napolitano, an associate professor of prevention and community health at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services, in a release.
Virtual reality weight-loss would be a handy way for people who cannot meet face to face with a counselor because of time constraints, family and work obligations.
Further studies need to be done to prove that virtual reality weight loss is effective. However, you can play around with this idea for yourself. Websites like SecondLife.com — a virtual reality environment on the Internet — allow you to create your own avatar and environment and interact with real people. You can join or create your own motivational weight-loss and fitness groups.