Losing Weight by Playing

The games can be played on any hand-held personal digital assistant (PDA) with users wearing a lightweight, wearable sensor that detects movement like running, walking, bending over or even foot tapping.

That data is then transmitted to the PDA via a wireless connection, and the player can see his or her game avatar move in real-time to their movements. For example, in the race game, the player’s physical activity propels the avatar around the track – the more active the player is, the faster and farther the avatar goes. “When you see the avatar move when you move, you really become connected to the game,” Ioannis Pavlidis, computer science professor at the University of Houston, said.

The game can run all day in the background as users go about their daily routines while earning points and propelling their avatars as they walk to the copy machine, take coffee breaks or walk the dog. Users can link to other gamers by cellular phone networks and compete against multiple users in the next cubicle or the next state.

“We hope the games add a dosage of everyday fun and embed NEAT in the modern lifestyle”, Pavlidis said. ‘NEAT’ (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) is the term for all physical activity that is not conscious exercise. “We expect an almost ‘addictive’ behaviour resulting from this game, much like the habit of playing solitaire during breaks is an everyday ritual for many people. The allure of computer gaming and competition with other users encourages players to make small lifestyle changes that can add up to big health benefits”, Pavlidis added.

A computer science student who was one of the first to try out the devices lost 40 pounds in five months.

COMPAMED.de; Source: University of Houston