According to Johns Hopkins, lack of physical activity has numerous negative effects on the body and on the mind. Inactivity puts an individual at a greater risk of suffering with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and even certain types of cancer. Exergaming is the term used for video games that require an individual to exercise to play. These games may help seniors remain more active; thus, improving their health.
Amanda Staiano is a researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. She states that exergaming offers users a way to exercise and have social interaction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 80 percent of Americans do not get enough exercise; while 40 percent say they never exercise.
Regular physical activity can improve an individual’s quality of life; however, many seniors do not continue their exercise regimens because seniors perceive these routines as dull. Exergaming through virtual reality provides seniors an exciting and motivational way to get up and moving. Users experience sensory information similar to experiences they would have in the real world. The audio and visual feedback these games provide may engage seniors; thus, providing them the motivation they need to stay active. Another benefit of virtual reality games is that they capture data related to speed, accuracy, consistency, time and kinematics.
Exergaming v. Regular Exercise
Exergaming can offer many of the same benefits achieved with regular exercise; however, just as with regular exercise the benefits an individual receives from these games depends on how often he or she performs these kinds of activities and the intensity at which they are performed. Senior facilities that are interested in offering their residents exergaming may want to monitor the seniors’ heart rates and steps.
Typical calories burned in a sedentary lifestyle (per half an hour):
- At rest – 30 calories
- Typing – 50 calories
Comparison of calories burned using Wii Sports games and the traditional counterparts (per half an hour):
- Wii Sport Tennis – 159 calories v. Traditional Tennis – 240
- Exergaming Boxing – 216 calories v. Traditional Boxing – 315
- Wii Sport Golfing – 93 calories v. Traditional Golfing – 195
Exergaming an Excellent Alternative to Sedentary Video Games
According to Jim White, who is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, even though these games burn fewer calories, they are excellent alternatives to the sedentary video games: White states that something is better than nothing and exergaming is a good option for individuals who are homebound. The goal of these games is to get an individual up and moving. For the most part, the traditional activity burns twice the calories than the game version does. Exergaming also has therapeutic benefits because it helps an individual with coordination, balance and agility.
The Therapeutic Value of Exergaming
According to a 2012 study that was published by PubMed, after six weeks of participating in the study, participants who had Parkinson disease showed significant improvement in mobility, static and dynamic balance as well as functional abilities. During this six-week study, participants used the Nintendo Wii fit with the balance board for about 40 minutes a day, three days a week.
A pilot study of Wii Fit exergames to improve balance in older adults is another study that reveals the benefits of exergaming. Study participants included seven individuals with a mean age of 84 years who had impaired balance. For three months, participants played four exergames for at least 30 minutes, three times a week. These games included soccer heading, basic step, table tile and ski slalom. After the three months, participants showed increased walking speed and considerable improvement in their balance.