Development and evaluation of an 'exergaming' intervention

Targeting cardiovascular and quality of life outcomes in a deprived area of the North-East

Development and evaluation of an 'exergaming' intervention

Dr Iain Spears led a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from Teesside in this EPSRC-funded project, which aimed to develop a cardiovascular intervention to target the health of hard-to-reach populations in the North East.

Lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for life-threatening diseases and is detrimental to mental health. In the North East of England, where this project was based, only one in three men meet the minimum exercise recommended to avoid these symptoms and are particularly susceptible to a range of health problems related to the metabolic syndrome.

Recently, a new generation of computer games - exergaming - offers the potential to help us to exercise more. However, as users becomes aware of the limitations of the technology, they inevitably resort to playing the games using small body movements, such as simple wrist flicks. These movements are far less demanding and consequently, the tremendous potential of exergaming in promoting exercise is not being reached.

In this project, an exergame capable of promoting vigorous activity was developed and experienced by members of a Social Club in a deprived area of the North East of England. Members were invited to partake in a 12 weeks high- intensity low-volume training exergaming programme. Physical activity, energy expenditure and other health measures will be closely monitored during the intervention.

The project met the following aims:

  • adapt current technology to quantify whole upper body movements during exergaming based on only 3 sensors mounted on the head, right hand and left hand
  • calculate internal and external mechanical work done by humans during exergaming
  • develop regression equations capable of calculating physiological energy expenditure based on mechanical work done during exergaming
  • create photorealistic real-time animations of virtual boxers based on the movements of the user and to project this to a format for audience entertainment
  • implement a low-volume, high-intensity exergame intervention into a social club in the North East of England
  • evaluate the effect of this new exergame on the increase/decreases in total daily energy expenditure
  • evaluate the efficacy of exergame on the improvement of health parameters such as: BMI, visceral body fat, HDL-C, glucose, triglycerides and blood pressure
  • evaluate whether this form of exercise should be promoted to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.

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