Video Games Help Aging Folks Get Fit

Active video games—Wii, Dance Dance Revolution, Microsoft Xbox, Sony Playstation—kids love them. These interactive games have users hopping, dancing, jumping, serving, swinging, and generally moving around their family rooms. They're a good way for young ones to work up a little bit of sweat indoors.

But new research suggests that the people who might benefit most from playing these games aren't exactly young. In fact, they're decades older than the games' intended audience.

Can't picture your elderly grandmother with a Wii controller in her hand? You're not alone. But science says playing Wii-type games can do a lot of good for senior citizens.

Better Balance

One study cited an 89-year-old woman who previously had trouble balancing and had sustained many falls. After just six sessions playing Wii Bowling, her balance skills improved significantly.

Another study at Elon University in North Carolina had two groups of recruits agree to play several sessions of Wii Fit. One group was comprised of healthy senior citizens and the other group was made up of undergraduates. After just several Wii sessions, the older people greatly improved their balance skills while the undergraduates' balance improved just a bit.

Moderate Workout

One reason that active video games might be attractive to seniors is that, despite the idea that virtual sports games are as strenuous as the actual activities, science has shown that this unfortunately is not true.

While swinging a racket or throwing a right hook at the screen may feel like exercise, it doesn't require as much energy as real-life sports. So an elderly person who isn't inclined to go running or play singles tennis can get a workout that's relatively mild but still offers some health benefits.

While it's difficult to make large-scale predictions about the effects of active video games on elderly peoples' health simply because of the dearth of studies in this area, researchers maintain that they may be an effective and affordable tool for older people who might otherwise be completely sedentary.




Reynolds, Gretchen. "Phys Ed: Why Wii Fit Is Best for Grandparents." New York Times.