A study has shown that though participants reduced similar amounts of weight and body fat through a 3-D online weight loss programme as did those in traditional health club sessions, the online therapy recorded significantly greater gains in behaviours that could facilitate healthier and leaner lives.
For 12 weeks, members of the each weight-loss program spent at least four hours a week attending meetings at a virtual or real club. The study involved overweight and obese people, mostly women. The average age of the face-to-face group was 37.
The participants in each group lost a comparable amount of weight, on average almost 10 pounds. But whereas the virtual world participants reported positive changes in all the healthy eating and physical activity measures except the number of hours slept, the participants in the face-to-face group reported no significant changes in any of these behaviours.
"It's counter-intuitive, the idea of being more active in a virtual world, but the activities that they do in a virtual world can carry over into the real world," said Jeanne Johnston, assistant professor of kinesiology at Indiana University.
"Through visualization and education, they can try activities that they had not tried before. The virtual world program was at least as beneficial as the face-to-face program and in some ways, more effective" she added.
The findings in the study 'Comparison of a Face-to-Face versus Virtual World Weight Loss Program' have been discussed at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting in Denver.