Kinesiology doctoral student wins research award at SEACSM, shows health benefits of virtual reality gaming

March 21, 2019

Dulce posing with her research posterSchool of Kinesiology graduate student Dulce Gomez, won first place for the Master’s Student Research Award for her poster on “Gaming enjoyment, perceived exertion, and exercise intensity in active virtual reality games,” at the Southeast ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) (SEACSM) conference February 14-16 in Greenville, SC. At the conference, eight finalists presented their posters and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners were awarded. Gomez won first place in the Master’s Poster Award category receiving $300 and a certificate.

Gomez is a student under Michael Brown, Ph.D., Director of the Hypertension and Vascular Health Laboratory at Auburn University School of Kinesiology. Gomez’s Master’s research at San Francisco State University was focused on virtual reality games as an alternative exercise modality. Participants engaged in three different virtual reality games while measuring oxygen consumption, perceived exertion, and game enjoyment.

“We found that depending on the game played, the subjects could reach a sufficient exercise intensity to achieve the health benefits of ‘traditional’ exercise, specifically with the boxing and archery games,” said Gomez. “With the dancing game, we found that participants only reached light intensity.”

The researchers used the HTC Vive gaming system with 41 participants between the ages of 18 to 39 and consisting of 21 males and 20 females. Each participant had two visit days; the initial visit involved a body composition, VO2max measures, familiarization of the games (dancing, archery, and boxing), and completed a survey ranking the most enjoyable game. On day two participants were attached to the COSMED metabolic cart during 10 minutes of resting measures and for a 10-minute session of each game with a 5-minute rest in between. Data was collected on oxygen consumption and participants rated their perceived exertion during each game session.

Dulce with her award“The purpose of the study was to determine if virtual reality games could be used as an alternative exercise modality following ACSM guidelines to achieve the necessary health benefits,” said Dr. Brown. “Dulce’s thesis found that health benefits could be achieved using virtual reality as an alternative exercise modality and the perceived exertion was lower, which could allow the participant to potentially exercise longer before fatiguing. This is an opportunity to take a sedentary pastime, get exercise, and achieve the necessary health benefits.”

She was also one of eight recipients at the conference to receive a SEACSM Leadership Diversity Training Program Award (LDTP). Gomez received a travel grant to cover the cost of the conference and was paired with mentor Kimberly Reich, Ph.D., Associate Professor in exercise science at High Point University in North Carolina. The SEACSM Leadership and Diversity Training Program (LDTP) encourages SEACSM student members from minority groups underrepresented in sciences to participate in activities that will lead to increased ACSM service, enhanced pathways to degree completion, and successful mentoring experiences (

“I was honored to have been selected as one of the eight recipients to receive this travel award and be paired with a mentor who can be a support system within this regional chapter outside of my Auburn colleagues,” Gomez said. “She is an encouraging mentor who can assist me to be the best I version of myself as I continue toward my doctoral degree and beyond.”