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Survey Reveals High Interest in Physical Activity Video Games

by Rainier on May 10, 2012 @ 10:33 a.m. PDT

A new survey shows that the majority of consumers believe video games should encourage physical activity and that “physically active” video games can complement traditional exercise.

The survey of 1,015 adults, age 18 or older, found that nearly 75 percent of respondents believe that video games should include a component that encourages physical activity. Also, 70 percent said that physically active video games – defined in the survey as video games that require body movements to control the activity on the screen – can complement or supplement traditional exercise.

More than half (54 percent) said that physically active video games would encourage them to be more active, while 60 percent of survey respondents with children in the household said children should be encouraged to play physically active video games as a complement to traditional exercise.

“Even as we continue to study the clinical impact of video games on health, this survey shows that there is a real interest among consumers in games that promote at least some physical activity,” said Richard Migliori, M.D., executive vice president of health services at UnitedHealth Group. “We believe that the intersection of health and video gaming holds enormous potential benefit for individuals, families and the entire health care system, and we are continuing to explore ways to make this a reality for consumers.”

“As a physician, I believe people of all ages and abilities can benefit from some sort of physical activity, and when it comes to video games, I’m thrilled to see people getting up off the couch and enjoying video game play and competition that exercises their heart, lungs, extremities and mind,” said Bill Crounse, M.D., Microsoft’s senior director of worldwide health. “UnitedHealth Group’s survey shows that consumers are looking for ways to combine physical activity with entertainment for the whole family through video game devices like Microsoft Kinect for XBOX 360.”

Video Gaming Innovations at UnitedHealth Group

UnitedHealth Group has been exploring ways to infuse video games and gaming elements into health and wellness activities for consumers in order to boost people’s engagement with their health and improve their well-being. The company’s efforts are focusing on three areas:

  • Gameplay, which leverages games that people can play to improve their health;
  • Gamification, which incorporates game mechanics and psychology to make health and fitness more engaging and fun; and
  • Game technology, which explores how technologies and devices traditionally built for video gaming may be used in nontraditional ways to improve patient care and condition management in clinical and home settings.

“UnitedHealth Group’s innovations demonstrate that the health care industry, like the video gaming industry, can be extremely effective at engaging people,” said Bud Flagstad, senior vice president, software innovation & technical product services at UnitedHealth Group. “Our work with video gaming is to continue to find new ways to better engage people in their own health and to improve patient care.”

In recent years, UnitedHealth Group has launched several programs with video gaming elements, including:

  • UnitedHealth Group’s JOIN for MESM program, which is helping children with extra weight and whose BMI is above the 85 percentile reduce extra weight and develop healthier habits. The program, piloted with the Y of the USA, has the potential to become a national model for fighting the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic. Half of the children enrolled in the current JOIN for ME pilot have been provided with an Xbox with Kinect and two exercise-focused video games. The study will evaluate if access to the games has an impact on physical activity and/or weight management outcomes compared to kids who do not have the Xbox/Kinect and activity based games. The study is being conducted across three states: Texas, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
  • Baby Blocks, which utilizes a game-like interface and incentives to support pregnant Medicaid plan members in receiving prenatal care, as well as encourage well-baby visits.
  • OptumizeMe, a health and wellness mobile application that enables users to create fitness challenges and invite their friends to join.
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