Can playing video games really make us healthier?

‘We want to find out how well these games compare to exercise.’

More than 50 adults are on a waiting list for the next round of a $2.6 million research study now under way at The Miriam Hospital’s Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine to test and document whether virtual video-exercise games can offer real physical-fitness benefits. More

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Health Matters

Can playing video games really make us healthier?

‘We want to find out how well these games compare to exercise.’

PBN PHOTO/FRANK MULLIN
MORE THAN A GAME: Kathy Palmer, a senior research assistant at Lifespan, demonstrates how Wii video games attempt to improve health.
Posted 2/13/12

More than 50 adults are on a waiting list for the next round of a $2.6 million research study now under way at The Miriam Hospital’s Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine to test and document whether virtual video-exercise games can offer real physical-fitness benefits.

Folks from as far away as North Dakota have volunteered for the first such national study, according to Beth Bock, the principal investigator in charge of the study. Unfortunately for those out of state, proximity to Providence is one of the criteria for acceptance, enabling the study’s participants to be in the “exercise laboratory” three times a week for an initial 12 weeks.

The research, funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes for Health, is taking place in three nondescript, 10-foot by 15-foot office spaces on the third floor of 1 Hoppin St., the headquarters of Lifespan’s burgeoning research division in the former Coro building. The division, with more than 1,000 employees in 2011 and a yearly revenue stream of more than $80 million, has emerged as one of the anchors of the city’s Knowledge District.

Two groups – one working out with Wii exercise games, such as tennis, kung fu, yoga, golf, an obstacle course and Zumba, a second working out on a treadmill – will have their physical efforts tracked over a 12-week period, measuring their exercise output. A third, serving as a control group, will maintain their normal patterns of exercise.

At the end of the 12-week period, each of the participants will be asked to maintain a diary of their home-exercise routines for six months. At that time, the study participants will all be tested – for cholesterol, blood-sugar levels, body-composition scan, blood pressure and cardio-vascular performance – repeating tests that were done at the beginning of the study.

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