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A Pilot Study of Wii Fit Exergames to Improve Balance in Older Adults

Agmon, Maayan PT, PhD, MA, BA; Perry, Cynthia K. PhD, ARNP; Phelan, Elizabeth MD, MS; Demiris, George PhD; Nguyen, Huong Q. PhD

Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy: October/December 2011 - Volume 34 - Issue 4 - p 161–167
doi: 10.1519/JPT.0b013e3182191d98
Research Reports

Purpose: To determine the safety and feasibility of using Nintendo Wii Fit exergames to improve balance in older adults.

Methods: Seven older adults aged 84 (5) years with impaired balance (Berg Balance Scale [BBS] score < 52 points) were recruited from 4 continuing care retirement communities to participate in a single group pre- and postevaluation of Wii Fit exergames. Participants received individualized instructions (at least 5 home visits) on playing 4 exergames (basic step, soccer heading, ski slalom, and table tilt) and were asked to play these games in their homes at least 30 minutes 3 times per week for 3 months and received weekly telephone follow-up. They also completed a paper log of their exergame play and rated their enjoyment immediately after each session. Participants completed the BBS, 4-Meter Timed Walk test, and the Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale at baseline and 3 months. Semistructured interviews were conducted at the 3-month evaluation.

Results: Participants safely and independently played a mean of 50 sessions, median session duration of 31 minutes. Two of the games were modified to ensure participants' safety. Participants rated high enjoyment immediately after exergame play and expressed experiencing improved balance with daily activities and desire to play exergames with their grandchildren. Berg Balance Scores increased from 49 (2.1) to 53 (1.8) points (P = .017). Walking speed increased from 1.04 (0.2) to 1.33 (0.84) m/s (P = .018).

Conclusions: Use of Wii Fit for limited supervised balance training in the home was safe and feasible for a selected sample of older adults. Further research is needed to determine clinical efficacy in a larger, diverse sample and ascertain whether Wii Fit exergames can be integrated into physical therapy practice to promote health in older adults.

University of Washington, Seattle.

Address correspondence to: Huong Q. Nguyen, PhD, University of Washington, Box 357266, Seattle, WA 98195 (HQN@uw.edu).

Supported in part by: 1KL2RR025015-01 and University of Washington School of Nursing Research Intramural Funding Program.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Copyright © 2011 the Section on Geriatrics of the American Physical Therapy Association
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