Video Games and Facebook – Looking at Weight

video_game_controllerTechnology like Facebook and video games are such a big part of many people’s lives today. Although they’re often blamed for lack of activity, could these types of technologies be used for positive health chances? With the right focus and structure, there likely can be benefits. Could parents of overweight teens see positive results from encouraging video game playing? New research says yes, but only a certain kind of video game: active video games, also known as exergames.  A new study from Georgetown University looked at effective ways to encourage adolescents to be more physically active through video games. They found that not only do exergames support weight loss in teens, but they are more effective in using this technological tool to lose weight when doing it with other teens.

The study involved 54 overweight and obese African-American teens (ages 15-19) over a 20-week time period. The teens were encouraged to play the EA Sports Active game for Nintendo Wii for 30-60 minutes per school day in a lunch-time or after school program. The exergame participants, who worked with a peer to earn points, lost on average 5 pounds more than the control group. They also showed improvements in self-efficacy and peer support. “In many ways video games have replaced “sports in the neighborhood” for our children,” said Dr. Mark Fusco, expert weight loss surgeon in Florida.  “It stands to reason that the more active these games can become the better,” he concluded. The findings were published in the scientific journal, Obesity.

Another recent study looking at screen-time activity and body weight found that the social media network, Facebook, could be used as a tool to map which geographical areas have the most overweight and obese people. The study found that people who list activity-related interests on their profile are less likely to be overweight than those who list TV-related interests.  Specifically, in the location in the United States where the highest percentage of Facebook users listed activity-related ‘interests’, the obesity rate was 12% lower than that in the location with the lowest percentage. Similarly, the obesity rate in the location with the highest percentage of Facebook users with television-related interests  was 3.9% higher than the location with the lowest percentage. Looking at New York neighborhoods, the researchers found that the obesity rate in Northeast Bronx, the neighborhood with the highest percentage of television-related ‘interests’ on Facebook, was 27.5%  higher than the rate in Greenpoint, the neighborhood with the lowest percentage of TV interests listed.

This study doesn’t imply that simply adding a healthy interest to your Facebook profile is going to produce any changes, but it is interesting in terms of analysis. The tight correlation between Facebook users’ interests and obesity data suggest that this kind of social network analysis could help generate real-time estimates of obesity levels in an area, according to the researchers.  Additionally, the findings suggest these networks can be used to help target public health campaigns that would promote healthy behavior change, and assess the success of those campaigns.

Related Reading: Mexican-American Youth Gaining Weight

Bedroom TV Viewing and Obesity in Kids


Comments are closed.