Can avatars make us healthier?

I just read an interesting note in the June issue of Success magazine.  Editor Josh Ellis reported on work that was done by Felix Chang at Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab concerning the influence of personal avatars–those images some of us create to “be” us online, in games, when messaging, etc.

It appears that people change to be more like their avatars.  For example, people with tall avatars act more confidently than those with shorter figures.  In one study, participants who had their avatars eat carrots actually ate healthier themselves.

Furthermore, study participants exercised more after watching their avatar characters lose weight when exercising on a treadmill.

Thought-provoking?  According to psychologist Albert Bandura, it is the similarity to the image that influences one to change behavior.  The more similar we are, the more likely we are to adopt the behavior of the avatar.

On the other hand, I would think that creating an avatar that eats junk food and plays video games all day would have an unhealthy influence on the individual.  This adoption of  negative behaviors was see by researchers studying college students playing video games.  Good avatars brought out positive behaviors and bad avatars resulted in negative behaviors.

Maybe by creating avatars in our image, in our best image, we might change to be just like them.

What do you think?


Starting a walking regimen

I renewed my commitment to a daily walk not long ago, and decided to increase my meanderings to an hour each day.  I enjoy the fresh air and the exercise that I get.

Getting out early in the morning helps with my comfort level during the warmer months.  And early out helps me get my walking accomplished before the day’s responsibilities start knocking on the door (or buzzing on my phone).

This might be a good time for all of us to review our health goals.  I still think of September as a new year of sorts with the beginning of another school year.  And, considering that walking is great for weight maintenance, heart health, and one’s bone density, why not choose this for a goal?

If you are thinking of starting a new exercise regimen and want to add a few more steps to your day, here are a few suggestions.

  • Buy a pedometer to see how many steps you take.  Make a goal of 10,000 steps per day.
  • Park a few more blocks or parking spaces away from your destination.
  • Take the stairs.  Or, walk a few flights of stairs and then use the elevator.  Slowly increase the number of stairs you walk as you gain stamina.
  • Take a break from your favorite TV shows and walk around the house or walk up and down the stairs a few times.  Much better than getting up for a snack!
  • Or put the treadmill, that is gathering dust or collecting clothes, in front of the TV and walk while you watch.
  • Find a park and walk with friends, family members, or the dog.
  • At the office walk to your colleague’s desk instead of sending an email.
  • Set up regular walking dates with friends who share your goal.
  • Get a good pair of walking shoes so your feet enjoy the experience, too.

If it has been awhile since you have exercised, be sure to check with a medical professional to make sure that you are physically fit.  For more information on walking, check out the Mayo Clinic site.