Virtual reality can help fight obesity. Not only can VR be used to analyze how a person perceives his or her body, it can also improve discipline to physical activity and treat body image disorders.

VR is becoming quite popular and now, it aids in the battle against obesity by offering new treatment approaches to weight-associated disorders.

VR environments are capable of producing responses that are similar to the ones in the real world. Researchers from Spain's University of Barcelona and Italy's Catholic University of the Sacred Heart described studies that prove VR's capabilities in an article published in the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking journal's special issue.

One of the article authors and journal Editor-In-Chief, Dr. Brenda K. Wiederhold from Belgium's Virtual Reality Medical Institute said that various chronic health conditions are linked to a stress system dysfunction. These conditions include metabolic syndrome, obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, hypertension, pain syndromes and insomnia.

In the article, the researchers gave examples of how VR can be used to analyze how people see their bodies. Through VR, people can also participate in simulated encounters that can help reveal food triggers for eating disorders.

The authors wrote that VR provides a three-dimensional depiction of a patient's body, which can help the patient be aware of distortions in the body image that can lead to an opportunity to correct such biases. VR then helps provide a more realistic and achievable body image and lower the patient's dissatisfaction.

The journal's special issue also includes numerous articles that provide VR's many advantages and usage potentials in terms of health, namely:

Eating Disorders and Obesity in Virtual Reality: A Comprehensive Research Chart (Emily Lafond et al.)

Using Virtual Pets to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Children: A Technology-Assisted Social Cognitive Theory Approach (Sun Joo Ahn et al.) and

"What Are You Thinking When You Look at Me?" A Pilot Study of the Use of Virtual Reality in Body Image (Victoria A. Mountford et al.).

"I am appreciative to the researchers and clinicians worldwide who are exploring innovative ways to utilize technology to provide more effective assessment and treatment methods to a greater number of individuals," said Wiederhold.

Photo: Maurizio Pesce | Flickr

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