Video gaming could help diabetes management, researchers discover 10 November 2021 Don’t fancy running laps under the sun? What if you could play video games instead, in the comfort of your own home, and still reap the benefits of physical activity? Although gaming has been criticised for contributing to rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes, researchers from Brazil and the UK have found that playing active video games (‘exergames’) has similar effects on the body as more traditional physical activity. Their study compared various cardiovascular measurements, such as heart rate and blood pressure, and perceived enjoyability among volunteers who played an adventure exergame vs people who ran moderately on treadmills. Results showed that both activities yielded similar benefits, with blood glucose dropping to safe levels among both cohorts. The main difference was found in enjoyment and motivation. “Gamifying exercise not only takes your mind off exertion but working toward 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 Sao Francisco. Exergames are currently available through the likes of Wii Fit, X-BOX, Nintendo Switch, VR, and more, with a range of different activities on offer: dancing, boxing, even sword fighting. These active games use kinetic sensors to detect body movement, which is what drives the game and scores. The exergame participants were rewarded through their movement, and in turn, felt encouraged to repeat the activity and improve their performance. Dr Pooya Soltani, researcher at CAMERA believes this is “really important when adherence to traditional physical activities is generally low in [people with diabetes].” “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.” Dr Brito-Gomes suggests that “playing exergames could help some [people with diabetes] in managing a lifelong condition.” Next, the team will be looking into how VR balance games may support people who experience foot problems associated with their diabetes. The full findings of the exergames study are published in Games for Health Journal. Key Findings Research reveals that playing exergames has similar effects on the body as traditional exercise. Exergames track body movement for game scores, therefore offering a rewarding experience and motivating players to continue playing and improving performance. These findings show that exergames could help some people incorporate more physical activity into their lives by offering an enjoyable and effective alternative to traditional exercise.