The Second Life virtual space Club One Island announced that participants in its behavior modification program had lost more than eight pounds over the course of a twelve-week period. A control group that was attempting to modify behavior using the same methods but without the aid of a virtual world lost, on average, slightly less than six pounds per week. Club One attributes the virtual world's success in aiding weight loss to certain key features of how people interact with virtual spaces.
"Club One Island is a new approach to health that encourages individuals and organizations to rethink how we deal with obesity issues in this country," said Celeste DeVaneaux, Creative Director of Club One Island, in a press statement. "Program participants are very pleased with their weight loss results and we believe that there are tremendous implications for companies, health insurance providers, and governments looking to reduce the burden of health care costs and improve the lives of entire populations."
One of these features is avatar identification. Club One suggests that people may have had an easier time incorporating new behaviors like regular exercise into their daily routine after watching their avatar do the same things in the virtual world. Users tend to associate virtual worlds with the idea of gaming even if the environments aren't strictly game-oriented, which can make weight loss behaviors feel more engaging and fun when they're taught through use of a virtual world.
Users of Club One Island had customizable apartments as well as customizable avatars. `The users could socialize with each other in the virtual world as well as through a social network of profiles and journals. Club One thinks the virtual environment allowed users to connect with other people who had similar problems more effectively than the face-to-face environment permitted. This allowed participants in the virtual world program to feel more emotional support than their control group counterparts.
Club One Island is a creation of the California fitness chain Club One. The current data is from the project's Phase One. Phase Two of Club One Island's study is already underway, with Club One planning to release its initial findings later this year. Club One describes Club One Island as the "first of many immersive digital environments" the fitness chain plans to launch. Weight loss and virtual worlds was previously investigated by the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab.
Join us for App Conference – October 18-19, 2012 in Santa Clara