The vEngage study has been funded by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) to explore the potential of virtual reality (VR) exercise gaming (exergaming) to promote physical activity in adolescents. More about the study is also available on the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change Digi-Hub blog.

The health benefits of performing sufficient physical activity are very well-established and include social and psychological benefits.

Population data show that less than 15% of boys and 10% of girls are achieving the UK government recommendation for adolescents of at least 60 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity per day.


VR is a computer generated and interactive 3D experience. It is a simulated world, similar to the real world and in which the individual can become completely immersed and can interact or manipulate objects.

The use of VR to promote physical activity in adolescents is very promising. The vEngage study is being led by researchers at University College London (UCL) with academic partners at Coventry University and Anglia Ruskin University. The study includes a unique collaboration with industry partners- a London-based gaming company Six to Start.

Please read our Meet the Team page to learn more about who we are.


Our study goals

  • Working with expert game developers in order to learn from an industry that has been extremely successful in engaging our target population
  • Develop a novel intervention involving VR exergaming designed to engage adolescents in physical activity with the effects carried over to the ‘real world’
  • Promote the long-term adoption of higher levels of physical activity – moderate-to- vigorous physical activity (MVPA)


Study steps

Our study uses mixed methods approach. The general steps are outlined below:

  1. Protocol of the study including ethics
  2. Interviews with adolescents about engaging in physical activity, gaming and exergaming and VR
  3. Interviews with parents of teenagers about VR, exergaming and physical activity
  4. Set up a steering group with parents and students
  5. Thematic analysis of VR exergames
  6. Zombies, Run! app user survey
  7. Zombies, Run! app user interviews
  8. Test the VR game stage I – workshop with steering group of students
  9. Test the VR game stage II – workshop with steering group of students

We have completed all of these stages of research. We received 6,423 responses to our ZR survey (stage 6 above) and interviewed a N=30 users of ZR (stage 7 above).



We have a number of publications in press. This list is regularly updated.

McMichael L, Farič N, Potts HWW, Hon A, Smith L, Newby K, Steptoe A, Fisher A. Physical activity, gaming and virtual reality: the views of parents of adolescents. JMIR Serious Games 2019; (submitted). DOI:10.2196/14920

Farič N, Potts HWW, Hon A, Smith L, Newby K, Steptoe A, Fisher A. What Players of Virtual Reality Exercise Games Want: Thematic Analysis of Web-Based Reviews. J Med Internet Res 2019;21(9):e13833. DOI: 10.2196/13833  https://www.jmir.org/2019/9/e13833/

Farič N, Yorke E, Varnes L, Newby K, Potts HW, Smith L, Hon A, Steptoe A, Fisher A. Younger Adolescents’ Perceptions of Physical Activity, Exergaming, and Virtual Reality: Qualitative Intervention Development Study. JMIR Serious Games 2019;7(2):e11960. DOI: 10.2196/11960  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31210135