How games can improve our health

health-gamingThe use of games in healthcare is one that is increasingly common, with studies suggesting Tetris can help alleviate PTSD, and a British team using games to help users of forensic mental health facilities.

The deployment of games has largely been confined to mental health issues however.  That could be about to change, with a team from the University of Manchester testing new video games that aim to help elderly patients from suffering falls.

The rise of exergaming

The games have been developed by a team from the University of Manchester in partnership with Trafford Hospitals and MIRA Rehab Limited.

Participants played on the Exergame three times a week in their independent living accommodation, and the results suggest that they received a boost to both their balance and confidence as a result.

The next stage is to put the games through their paces in an official randomized control trial, with the game compared with more traditional interventions.

With roughly 30% of over 65s suffering a fall each year, this is clearly a considerable problem, so it will be fascinating to see how effective the games prove to be.

The benefits of exercise

Previous studies have highlighted the health benefits of physical exercise in the elderly, with suggestions that engaging in certain exercises can reduce falls by 40%.

By gamifying the exercise process, the team hope to encourage more elderly people to do the requisite exercise levels to reduce this risk.

“I’ve always been quite fit and tried to exercise, but as I got older I found that I could quite easily lose my balance when I turn. For me, Exergames provided a structure to encourage me to exercise more regularly. I found that as a result I could get up more easily after kneeling down. I feel healthy and positive that I’m doing something to help prevent problems that might otherwise occur,” one of the participants said.

The games utilize the Microsoft Kinect sensor to monitor the movements of the player.  The games can be programmed by clinicians to match the ability level of each individual.

The activities include things such as squatting, with the player performing certain actions on a TV or computer screen in front of them.

There are currently 12 games in the application that allow players to perform a range of exercises, such as squats and leg lifts, with more games constantly in development.

It will be interesting to see how the app gets on in the clinical trials they’re set to undergo.


2 thoughts on “How games can improve our health

  1. Certainly makes a lot of sense. As with most exercises, the key will be retaining motivation long enough for it to make a lasting difference.

    • Yes, that's a very good question Paul. It's widely believed that failure is more accepted in North America than it is in Europe, so it would be good to see if there were any differences in earnings recorded.

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