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Development of an exergame to deliver a sustained dose of high-intensity training: Formative pilot randomized trial

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Katie Haighton, Dr Iain SpearsORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


┬ęThomas McBain, Matthew Weston, Paul Crawshaw, Catherine Haighton, Iain Spears. Background: Sport science can play a critical role in reducing health inequalities. The inverse relationship between life expectancy, cardiorespiratory fitness, and socioeconomic status could be addressed by performing high-intensity training (HIT), delivered in a class salient and accessible approach. Commercially available exergames have shown encouraging compliance rates but are primarily designed for entertainment purposes rather than focusing on health-related outcomes. A serious game tailored toward delivering an exercise stimulus, while reducing the aversive protocols associated with HIT, could be beneficial to engage and improve health outcomes in socially deprived males. Objective: The aims of this study were to develop an exergame capable of delivering HIT and evaluate the effect on selected health outcomes in men recruited in regions of socioeconomic deprivation. Methods: We conducted an exploratory trial in our target population, and participants were allocated to intervention (n=14) or control groups (n=10) by third-party minimization. The intervention was a 6-week training program consisting of three sessions of exergaming per week. The sessions involved a structured warm-up, then brief intermittent repetitions in the form of boxing rounds (10 s, 20 s, and 30 s) against their peers with a work/rest ratio of 0.25. Results: Retention to the intervention was 87.5% (21/24). Over the duration of the intervention, session attendance was 67.5% (170/252); repetition mean and peak heart rates (% of maximal) and session ratings of perceived exertion (AU, arbitrary units) were 86.3 (5.4%), 89.9 (6.1%), and 7.5 (2.2 AU), respectively. The effect of the intervention, when compared with the control, was a likely small beneficial improvement in predicted maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max, 3.0; 90% confidence limits ┬▒2.6%). Effects on body mass, waist circumference, and blood pressure were either trivial or unclear. Conclusions: Over the 6-week intervention, the exergame delivered a consistent and sustained dose of HIT, with some beneficial effects on aerobic fitness in the target population. Trial Registration: NCT03477773; (Archived by WebCite at

Publication metadata

Author(s): McBain T, Weston M, Crawshaw P, Haighton C, Spears I

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Medical Internet Research

Year: 2018

Volume: 6

Issue: 1

Online publication date: 27/03/2018

Acceptance date: 19/12/2017

Date deposited: 27/06/2018

ISSN (print): 1439-4456

ISSN (electronic): 2291-9279

Publisher: JMIR Publications, Inc.


DOI: 10.2196/games.7758

PubMed id: 29588271


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Funder referenceFunder name
MR/K02325X/1Medical Research Council (MRC)