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    Achieving Real Fitness Through Fantasy Sports

    Spring 2014

    By Marcia Faye

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    Arlen Moller
    Arlen Moller
    Photo: Michael Goss

    In 2013, nearly 34 million Americans played baseball, basketball, football, and hockey as well as assorted other games, without so much as even walking to the field, court, turf, or rink. They instead sat at their computers and participated in online fantasy sports, a hobby that presents both a conundrum and an opportunity for IIT Associate Professor of Psychology Arlen Moller. If his research continues to provide promising results, many of these online fantasy sports fans might convert their couch-potato habits into fantasy-fueled fitness.

    "Ironically, fantasy sports have traditionally been focused on paying attention to physical-activity data yet have been entirely sedentary for those playing," says Moller. "A basic principle of this research involves taking people's enduring enthusiasm for professional sports and leveraging that enthusiasm to help them become more physically active themselves."

    In a typical online fantasy sports game, participants act as team owners and assemble a roster of professional athletes. Fantasy teams earn points based on the performance of the professional athletes in the team's roster and compete against teams managed by other fantasy owners. Team owners can control their team's performance by trading players with other owners, adjusting their rosters each week, and anticipating which professional athletes will perform well.

    Although many fantasy sports leagues include significant cash prizes for winners, according to a 2008 survey conducted by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, fewer than 20 percent of owners listed winning money or prizes among their top five reasons for playing fantasy sports. Motivating factors most often include friendly competition, sports experience enhancement, and league camaraderie—forms of social interaction akin to what Moller has also observed.

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