PROF. RYAN RHODES, AN EXERCISE MOTIVATION SPECIALIST
in the School of Physical Education, thinks new
technology combining video games and exercise
bikes could be a way to keep young people physically
fit. Rhodes and UBC colleague Darren Warburton
are in the middle of a study to see if a regular
spin on an interactive exercise bike can put
more fun and commitment into working out. Rhodes
spoke to the Torch in his office in the McKinnon
Torch: Your study seems be really about young
people and their lifestyle choices.
activity is just one of many things we can
choose to do. Television and video gaming are
very popular choices among the college-age
group and adolescents. It’s
a transitional phase where behavioural patterns
can be established and people get into the way
they’re going to be. The other major factor,
and this isn’t going to be a surprise,
is enjoyment—those who are involved in
physical activity enjoy it, those that aren’t,
don’t. So we’re trying to combine
What makes a good motivational environment
for someone trying to maintain a workout routine?
You really have to choose
an activity that you find pleasant. Yet a lot
of people in our studies are trying to make
themselves go to a place (like a gym) that
they inherently don’t really
like that much. Another factor is to find a time
in the day that it isn’t a burden. Physical
activity is often scheduled, if scheduled at
all, at the end of the day. But by then sometimes
you haven’t done what you’re supposed
to do, other times you’re tired.
So tell me more about the test bikes.
They’re interactive in the sense that
pedaling represents your speed on the screen.
They play all the driving games for Sony Playstation
2 (such as ATV Offroad Fury, Smuggler’s
Run, The Simpson’s Road Rage). The point
is to go up to a moderate intensity and stay
there. It’s not like you would go faster
and faster and faster because that’s not
really the purpose of having a workout. People
would burn out in a minute (laughs). It’s
set up to have a five minute warm up, then the
game starts and it can be somewhere between a
20 and 30 minute workout, and then a warm down.
The bikes are new and relatively inexpensive
which is another important factor. I wouldn’t
want to promote them yet because we want to test
them first. But they are at least within someone’s
price range and a lot of families already have
Okay, so half of the test group is on the fun
bike, half is on the old-fashioned one. What
sort of things are you looking for?
My colleague is the exercise
physiologist so he’s interested in the various physical
parameters—are there fitness changes associated
with these bikes? My interest is in the adherence
and enjoyment of these activities. And I’m
looking at motivational factors. I’m totally
open to the possibility that this is pretty fun
for a week then people stop showing up. I’m
really interested in that drop-off effect.
In terms of whether they go to another exercise
or none at all?
Yeah, it happens all the time (in exercise programs).
Our hypothesis is that this is more fun than
the ordinary exercise bike and we want to prove
that adherence will be better in this group than
on ordinary bikes. If we find something, we would
like to go into homes and try it with adolescents.
What are your preliminary results?
It’s so far very successful. We’re
finding exactly what we expected to find. Adherence
is better. People are having a really good time.
The anecdotal comments are that a half hour passes
and they don’t even know it’s gone.
The other thing is that the game can be played
in tandem, so up to four people can get a workout
and play together. It is still very early, but
it’s something the school systems might
Why not just get on a real bike and get some
Ultimately we would love
that. But we’re
losing a battle and we’re looking for alternatives.
We call it making an enemy an ally. Maybe we
can take some of these things we’re losing
to and use them for physical activity. We have
to look at other strategies.
The interactive bike
study is supported by the BC Knowledge Development
Fund and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health
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