Leg strength and balance are important factors in falls risk. A randomized controlled trial examined the effect of video game–based physical training on balance and leg muscle strength in a group of community-dwelling older adults, finding that feedback-based video game exercise is an engaging method that can improve overall functional performance.
The researchers, located in Denmark, recruited community-dwelling individuals age 65 and better who self-reported difficulty with balance. Fifty-eight participants were randomly assigned to either the training group or a control group. The training group received 10 weeks of balance training using the Nintendo Wii video game console, which detects the movement of users and displays their movement through virtual characters on a TV screen. The control group participants were provided with shoe insoles to wear for 10 weeks. The Wii training sessions were conducted twice per week, and led by a physical therapist to include balance and muscle training. At the end of the 10-week period, participants in both groups were tested on leg strength, balance capacity (roughly, a measure of the extent to which participants remain still while standing with their arms folded), and falls-related functional tests of strength and agility.
Participants in the training group developed statistically significant improvements in leg muscle strength, and in the functional tests. No adverse events were reported in using the Wii, and participants involved in the Wii group reported that they found the training enjoyable and motivating, and about half of them reported wanting to continue the training either at home or in a senior center.
Jorgensen MG, Laessoe U, Hendriksen C, et al. Efficacy of Nintendo Wii training on mechanical leg muscle function and postural balance in community-dwelling older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences (2013); 68(7): 845–852.