Blog | Friday, May 30, 2008

Virtual exercise's real effects studied

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded $2 million to help strengthen the evidence base that video games improve players' health behaviors and outcomes.

Presumably, Grand Theft Auto isn't one of the games. This is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Instead, 12 research groups across the country will get $200,000 apiece to explore how motion-based games may help stroke patients progress faster in physical therapy, or how people in substance abuse treatment can practice skills and behaviors in the virtual world to prevent real-world relapses.

The 12 grantees will study games that engage players from ages eight to 98 in physical activity, healthy lifestyle choices, prevention behaviors, chronic disease self-management and/or adherence to medical treatment plans. Researchers will gauge why certain game designs are compelling, fun and effective, and for which types of people. Using common sense, the teenagers will get Dance Dance Revolution; the seniors will get stationary bikes.

The grants were competitive. Twelve teams get to study video games while another 100 were sent back to vying for high score on Wii Fit instead.

The 12 grant recipients are online, as are instructions to get involved in the second $2 million round of grants in January 2009.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation offers more information, including grant recipient profiles and interactive features, here.