April 20, 2015
1 min read

Nintendo Wii found to improve quality of life in older adults

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Older adults who play Wii exergames have improved physical and social functions, according to a recently published study in the Journal of Aging and Health.

“Exergames cannot only be used for entertainment but also can be applied to encourage older adults who lack motivation to engage in physical activity. Evidence supports that the Wii exergames have positive effects on cognition, physical function, and psychosocial outcomes in older adults, such as increasing physical activity, cognitive stimulation, social support and enjoyment,” Ying-Yu Chao, RN, Rutgers School of Nursing, and colleagues wrote.

Exergames, such as Wii Sports and Wii Fit are described as ‘entertaining video games that combine exercise with game play’.

Chao and colleagues evaluated 22 studies, published from 2006 through 2013, that analyzed the effects of Wii exergames on cognition, physical function and social interaction in adults aged 60 years and older.

Results demonstrated that among adults with perceived balance deficits, Wii exergames improved balance, walking mobility and speed, muscle strength, flexibility, functional ability and reduced fear of falling.

After a 12-week Wii exergame program, adults with sub-syndromal depression residing in living communities showed a major decrease in anxiety, as well as significant improvements in depressive symptoms and mental-health related quality of life. Compared with seniors who watched television, playing Wii bowling decreased loneliness and improved mood.

Study results appeared inconclusive for the efficacy of Wii exergames in improving cognitive function.

The researchers noted that some small font, color-overload, intricate menu options and lack of progress within games had negative effects on older adult player. To combat some of these issues and ensure games are more senior-friendly, Chao and colleagues encourage health care professionals to consult with engineers and computer science professionals to develop more senior-oriented game options.

“Many older adults do not adhere to exercise regimens due to lack of enjoyment. The Wii exergames makes exercise more fun and engaging to older adults, thus making it more likely for them to continue to exercise over time. Health care professionals should work as a team to design and develop the exergaming programs to promote physical activity in older adults,” Chao and colleagues wrote. – by Casey Hower

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.