The health benefits of games like Wii Fit have been the topic for debate, but use in physical therapy looks more and more viable.
A researcher at the Medical College of Georgia in the United States has recently released initial results of trials using Wii Sports in physical therapy sessions with sufferers of Parkinson's disease (a degenerative disease that affects motor skills) with some extremely positive results that suggests video games could become a major part of physical therapy for the future.
During the two-month long pilot, 20 patients showing symptoms in both sides of the body played two games each of tennis and bowling and one of boxing during hour-long sessions three times per week. Dr. Ben Herz was impressed with the results:
"By the middle of the study, we actually had a number of people who could [defeat] their opponent out in the first round, which amazed us"
In addition to the demonstrated gaming prowess participants showed improvements in rigidity and fine motor control as well as energy and most importantly a reduction in depression -- a common problem amongst sufferers of the disease -- down to zero levels.
Dr. Herz was so impressed with the results he went on to state that:
"I think we're going to be using virtual reality and games a lot more because it provides a controlled physical environment that allows patients to participate in the activities they need or want to do. A patient doesn't have to go to a bowling alley and worry about environmental problems or distractions...Game systems are the future of rehab"
Study participants were also apparently pleased with the experience:
"About 60 percent of the study participants decided to buy a Wii for themselves. That speaks volumes for how this made them feel."
Dr. Herz plans on further tests using the Wii Fit Balance Board with Parkinsons patients. His initial findings were presented last week at the fifth annual Games for Health Conference in Boston.
Whether or not you agree with the Wii's broader appeal, it sure is nice to read stories about the medical benefits resulting from Nintendo's desire to have a more inclusive gaming experience with their current home console.