As fitness video game technology continues to improve, more researchers are looking into its health benefits. Two recent studies have determined that “virtual gyms” and “virtual exercise partners” can help participants shed excess weight and improve fitness levels. In the first study, done at Michigan State University, subjects completed a side-by-side 12-week weight loss program. One group exercised in the “real” world, while the other participated in a Second Life interactive weight loss community. Both groups exercised 4 hours per week. At the end of the study, individuals in both groups averaged a 10-pound weight loss. However, the virtual group appeared to have made more changes toward a healthy lifestyle than did the in-person group.

The purpose of the second study, from Indiana University, was to determine whether individuals would achieve greater fitness success when working with a virtual partner of greater ability. The participants performed five exercises alone and then performed them again with a virtual partner. The participants held the exercise positions 24% longer when working with the partner than they did without the partner. These studies illustrate the potential benefits of the burgeoning virtual fitness world, and they may inspire more individuals to exercise. For more information, visit www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/225882.php and www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-13643471.