Exercising with video games may be a fun and effective alternative to conventional exercise programs. In a recent study, investigators tested the effectiveness of Xbox Kinect Adventures! games as an exercise program for older adults. The Kinect sensors sense a player’s body movements and reflect those movements in an on-screen avatar, allowing players to interact with the game using only their body. The games used in this study required players to rapidly plug holes with their hands and feet, pop bubbles, and steer a boat.
Forty-six community-dwelling older adults participated in an hour-long exercise session twice a week for seven weeks. One group performed standard physiotherapy exercises, while the other performed similar exercises through Kinect-based games. Participants also completed pre-, post-, and four-week follow-up evaluations, which measured posture control, gait, fitness, and cognition.
By the end of the seven weeks, both groups showed significant improvements in all four measures, which were maintained for four weeks following the intervention. The observed improvements did not differ between the Kinect group and the physiotherapy group, which suggests that exercising with Kinect games is just as effective as performing standard physiotherapy exercises.
Satisfaction of the program and adherence rate were high for both groups, and difficultly levels were similar. Interestingly, most participants in the Kinect group (87%) reported the duration of the intervention was low, while most participants in the physiotherapy group (91%) reported the duration was adequate. This may reflect a more immersive and enjoyable experience when exercising with video games.
One of the drawbacks of using Kinect-based games is the usability of the system. The games in this study were played individually, and there is much more technical set-up involved than just following along with an instructor. Once the game is started, it is very easy to use, but purchasing a Kinect system and setting it up may be barriers to getting started. Otherwise, exercising with these types of games appear to be a valid and enjoyable alternative to conventional exercise programs.
Bacha JMR, Gomes GCV, de Freitas TB, et al. Effects of Kinect Adventures games versus conventional physical therapy on postural control in elderly people: A randomized controlled trial. Games for Health Journal (2018); 7(1): 24-36.