Oct. 31, 2012 - Issue #889-Human Trafficking Problem
Study is biggest loser
Let's all do some science: gather a bunch of your friends, split them into two groups, make each group watch a different YouTube clip—let's say one group watches puppies biting fingers and the other watches puppies taking naps in the sun. When they're done, ask them how they feel about puppies, then draw a conclusion based on this about how the rest of North America must feel about puppies. Study completed.
Clearly this would be one of the worst studies ever, at the university level anyway. And yet, a University of Alberta study is making headlines after its conclusion that watching NBC's reality exercise show The Biggest Loser—where obese contestants endure gruelling workouts and lifestyle changes in order to shed pounds—takes away any motivation viewers might have to exercise.
The study was led by Dr Tanya Berry of the Faculty of Physical Education and took 138 students (not exactly a broad spectrum of ages or social demographic), split them into two groups and had one group watch a seven-minute clip from the early stages of Loser and the other watch a clip from American Idol. The group that watched the Loser clip—where contestants often scream, cry and throw up from the exercise—reported feeling more negative about exericse than did their counterparts who watched Idol. It would be interesting to know what part of the season the Idol clip was from. Was it early on when swathes of bad singers croon for the judges and if so, were the viewers turned off from ever belting out a tune themselves? Or was it later in the season when the talent is tight? Likewise, a study depicting how motivated viewers feel after watching Loser can't just pick a random clip and draw a conclusion. Lots of viewers watch this show from beginning to end and experience the transformation of people sidelined with obesity, who challenge themselves through the months of pain and come out stronger and healthier.
Berry has said that people who aren't familiar with exercise and watch this show will associate exercise with pushing yourself to the extreme limit and therefore be turned off from getting off the couch. But the study wasn't of 138 obese students who never exercise, it's reported to have been a range of students, so presumably some have hit the gym before.
The study will be published in the American Journal of Health Behavior in January. Let's hope there's more meat to it than what's been leaked and it answers these questions: What was everyone's feeling about exercise before watching the clips? What were their actual levels of activity? Had they watched Loser before? What does motivate them to exercise? What were their personalities like? Why was Idol chosen instead of a softer type of exercise program to compare? How many males and females—including self-identified? Ages of the participants? V
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