London: In what could be seen as good tidings for health buff, scientists have pioneered a research that claims online health clubs can be very much effective, when people don’t get time to visit a gym.

According to a research carried out by Indiana University in the US, it’s the motivation and confidence built in virtual gym that continued in normal life.

Scientists analysed a group of subjects who participated in two 12-week weight loss programmes -- one real and one virtual. And, both lost similar amounts of weight. The research had both the real and online gym courses involved four hours a week. Most of those taking part were women, with an average age of 46 in online programme, and 37 in the face-to-face group.

Over the 12-week period, both groups achieved similar weight loss -- losing 10 pounds on average, according to the findings presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Conference in Denver.

However, when the groups were surveyed on whether their overall behaviour had changed, those using online gym appeared to have made more changes towards healthy eating and physical activity, suggesting that they might fare better in the future, the 'BBC' reported. Dr Jeanne Johnston, who led the study, said: "It's counter-intuitive, the idea of being more active in a virtual world, but the activities that they do in a virtual world can carry over into the real world.

"The virtual world programme was at least as beneficial as the face-to-face programme, and in some ways, more effective. It has potential to reach people who normally wouldn't go to a gym because of limitations, such as time or discomfort with a fitness centre environment."

However, experts are not fully convinced. Dr Jeff Breckon, a researcher in exercise psychology at Sheffield Hallam University, said that there might be a role for virtual support of this type. "There's still evidence that one-to-one sessions can lead to successful outcomes. "There may be a place for this, perhaps as an adjunct to these sessions, rather than a replacement."