Exercise video games may alter people’s perceptions of how tired they are, something experts have said could be dangerous for people with type 1 diabetes.

Researchers behind a new study investigated whether a simple chart, which measures how exerted people feel, could be applied in the context of ‘exergames’.

Dr Pooya Soltani, senior lecturer in games technology at Staffordshire University, explained: “Type 1 diabetes patients need to control their blood glucose regularly, both before and after exercise, to prevent complications.

“As part of this, it is important to regulate the intensity of exercise, whether real or virtual.

“Most patients use a simple chart to measure how exerted they feel on a scale of 1 – 10, from hardly at all to using maximum effort.

While this has proven to be effective for traditional exercise, we wanted to investigate whether this scale can also be used when exercising with video games.”

For both real and virtual exercise sessions, the research team analysed correlations between physiological measurements of exercise intensity – including metabolic equivalent (MET) – oxygen consumption and heart rate.

The trial saw a group of people with type 1 diabetes undertake 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, either using the Kinect Adventures! video game or running.

The 6 – 20 point Borg scale was used after the sessions to measure the rate of perceived exertion (RPE).

Study co-author Jorge Luiz de Brito Gomes, from the Federal University of Vale do Sao Francisco, said: “The RPE and MET values were strongly correlated in real exercise but were moderately correlated during the virtual exercise session.

“Other metabolic and physiological variables were mostly low and lacked statistical significance during the virtual exercise.

“This highlights that it is crucial to exercise caution when extending use of the 6 – 20 point RPE scale to other types of exercise, especially virtual sessions, as they may not accurately reflect the physiological and metabolic intensity of the exercise.”

The research team said in light of the development of virtual exercise platforms, traditional older measurements like the 6 – 20 point RPE scale should be modified.

Dr Soltani said: “Active video games and virtual reality are recent exercise trends that can provide motivation to participants and might increase their adherence to physical activity.

Light to vigorous-intensity exergaming sessions may also have cardiovascular benefit people with type 1 diabetes.

“But our research shows that the current 6 – 20 RPE scale needs to updated so that everyone can safely benefit from using immersive games.

“In the meantime, healthcare professionals who want to incorporate virtual sessions with exergames into their practice, should cautiously use methods like this which subjectively measure physical activity.”

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