Imaginary Pets to Reduce Childhood Obesity

Imaginary pets to reduce childhood obesity bring a new meaning to healthy imaginations. A group of researchers from the University of Georgia have just published a controlled study showing that virtual pets can help promote physical activity in children compared to a control group of children who received all of the same types of interventions, but without the benefit of a virtual pet.

They found that interaction with a virtual pet delivered a highly significant increase in physical activity compared to children in the control group.

We’ve known for some time that having a real pet can have a substantial benefit for health and can improve outcomes in treating obesity. These researchers have taken that observation one step further with a mixed reality virtual pet game that taps into the appeal of gaming systems to motivate healthy behaviors. Not only did they find increased activity motivated by the virtual pets, but also sustained engagement over the course of the one-week study.

Health imaginations indeed.

Click here to read the study, here to read more about the health benefits of real pets, and here to read a study of the effectiveness of pets in treating obesity.

K-9 the Robot Dog, photograph © Jarod Carruthers / flickr

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