"alien Health": A Nutrition Instruction Exergame Using the Kinect Sensor

Mina C. Johnson-Glenberg, Caroline Savio-Ramos, Hue Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Objective: A feasibility study was run on an embodied exergame designed to teach 4th-12th grade students about nutrition and several U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) MyPlate guidelines. The study assessed efficacy on a new version of a game that was first implemented on an immersive platform and published in this journal in 2013. The earlier "Alien Health" game was redesigned for use with the Microsoft® (Redmond, WA) Kinect® sensor. Players learned about the amount of nutrients and optimizers in common food items and practiced making food choices while engaging in short cardio exercises. Subjects and Methods: Twenty 6th and 7th graders were randomly assigned to either the "Alien Health" game or a treated control condition. All engaged in "front of the classroom" performative activities. The "Alien Health" experimental group experienced the full game narrative of feeding the Alien and automated feedback on the quality of performed exercises. The control group experienced the same performative food choices at the interactive whiteboard but did no exercises. Two-week follow-up data were collected. Results: Both groups displayed statistically significant learning gains on the immediate nutrition knowledge posttest. The effect sizes from pretest to 2-week follow-up were 0.83 for the control group and 1.14 for the experimental group. Of interest is the crossover interaction from posttest to follow-up that approached significance (F19=3.96, P<0.058). Here, the experimental group outperformed the control group for knowledge retention. Conclusions: Results suggest acceptability, feasibility, and limited efficacy in a Kinect-based game to instruct in nutrition and the USDA MyPlate icon. The follow-up test revealed that nutrition knowledge continued to increase for the experimental group that performed short cardio exercises, suggesting that short exercises and perhaps a game narrative may have helped to consolidate content memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-251
Number of pages11
JournalGames for Health Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Rehabilitation
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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