Study: Exergaming can have similar health benefits as jogging

By Danielle Masterson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: eSports, Diabetes, Blood sugar management

While sedentary video games are often blamed for causing obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, new research suggests that certain video games could encourage players to be more active.

Esports has major potential for physical activity and health-promoting benefits, according to new research out of Brazil and the UK.

The findings, published in Games for Health Journal​, have researchers pointing to exergaming as a motivating way for Type 1 diabetics to keep active and help manage their condition.

The study

Researchers conducted a randomized trial to examine the physiological effects of active video games where the gamer uses body movements to control the game and score points.

They measured the cardiovascular effects, including heart rate, blood pressure, efficiency of oxygen consumption (referred to as double product), and endothelial function (for maintaining blood fluidity), as well as recording enjoyment levels of volunteers with type 1 diabetes after either playing active video games or running on a treadmill with moderate intensity.

Twice a week for three weeks, the research team took readings immediately after, 30 minutes after and 24 hours after the activity.

The researchers ran the trial using the Kinect Adventures game with the Kinect system on Xbox, which has a camera that tracks the players’ movements in the game.

The results

The researchers found that playing active video games provided very similar physiological effects to the traditional treadmill exercising, with blood glucose levels dropping to safe levels after both types of exercise.

The main difference the researchers found was that participants said the video games were much more motivating and enjoyable than traditional exercise. The game element of scoring points, earning badges and being rewarded for effort also helped encourage the participants to repeat the exercise, to put out more effort each time and to try to improve their performance over time.

Compliance

“Exercise is already recommended by doctors as a drug-free way of managing diabetics’ blood sugar levels, along with diet, but it can be difficult for people to stick to exercise routines long term,”​ said Dr. Pooya Soltani, researcher at CAMERA, based at the University of Bath.

The adoption and maintenance of physical activity is critical for blood glucose management and overall health in individuals with diabetes and prediabetes.

Exercise improves blood glucose control and insulin sensitivity in diabetes, reduces cardiovascular risk factors, and contributes to weight loss, among other benefits.

“Whilst it’s not the magic solution to keeping active, we found that players enjoyed playing exergames way more than running. This is really important when adherence to traditional physical activities is generally low in diabetic patients,”​ said Soltani.

“Gamifying exercise not only takes your mind off the exertion, but working towards rewards in the game or even competing against friends helps motivate you to keep coming back to do more,”​ said Dr. Jorge Brito-Gomes, researcher at Universidade Federal do Vale do São Francisco, Brazil.

Coming up, the researchers plan to investigate the benefits of balance games and virtual reality effects on balance for diabetics who experience foot problems associated with their condition.

Market for blood-sugar support 

North America is grabbing the largest share in the global diabetes supplement market. This can be attributed to the increasing prevalence of prediabetes and obesity and the rising geriatric population. According to the CDC, in the US alone, over 84 million people (33.9% of the population)  aged 18 and older suffered from prediabetes in 2015, and over 48% of the geriatric population suffered from prediabetes conditions.

According to data from SPINS, in the natural channel sales of blood-sugar support products have risen 20% in the last year, which followed up on 8% sales growth the year prior.

Source: Games for Health Journal

2021 DOI 10.1089/g4h.2020.0209

"Cardiovascular and Enjoyment Comparisons after Active Videogame and Running in Type 1 Diabetes Patients: A Randomized Crossover Trial"
Authors: J. Gomes et al.

Esports to be featured at upcoming event

NutraIngredients-USA is hosting an in-person Sports & Active Nutrition Summit event in San Diego on Feb. 14-16 2021.  Esports will be one of the topics covered in depth.  Stay tuned to the events homepage​ for details and registration information and early bird discounts.

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