I like Pokémon Go. It forces me to go outside in order to play and I personally find that a good thing. A side effect of that is obviously that I exercise while playing. I explained all the good things about Pokémon Go in a previous post, so I wont go too deep into it here. Niantic recently announced a new feature that will track your steps even if the app isn’t open. All these GPS based features sure do motivate you to move around and while Pokémon Go was not necessarily meant to be a tool for exercising, it does do a good job getting people to stay active. As opposed to Pokémon Go, some games are specifically made to improve people’s health and some of those were also actually proven effective. Have you ever heard of Wii Fit?
The ‘Nintendo Wii’ was Nintendo’s first console that incorporated motion control. This means that while using the console, the player needs to move their arms or body in order to navigate the console’s main menu or play games. Because this console relies heavily on motion control quite a few sports and fitness games were developed for it. Especially Wii Fit and its sequel Wii Fit U have the goal to help people get fit. The average, healthy, middle-aged person has the fitness, means and money to exercise by themselves; They can play sports, go jogging or frequent a gym. Not all people have these luxuries, however, so they could use some help. Specifically the elderly can benefit from being forced to move.
But why would seniors use video games to exercise if they can also just use the facilities set up for them? One big reason to incorporate video games into their exercise routine is because “[V]ideo-game exercises present a unique opportunity to increase older people’s motivation to engage in an exercise programme[…]”. (Zadro et al, 2017) It seems that the elderly particularly enjoy playing games as a way of exercise because completing the games feels rewarding and being able to play them with others reduces feelings of loneliness. (Miller et al, 2014) Going out to exercise after a long day of working or when it rains is not exactly appealing. The same goes for seniors. Why would you get up and move around if you can also just sit in your chair all day? Other than that, research is being done on this subject as we speak and the general concensus is that video games of this type actually do help in improving people’s health. However, at this moment in time it is not yet affordable enough to install video game systems in all retirement homes. Despite that, it is interesting to see what video games can do.
- Joshua Robert Zadro, Debra Shirley, Milena Simic, Seyed Javad Mousavi, Dragana Ceprnja, Katherine Maka, Paulo Ferreira, Video-game based exercises for older people with chronic low back pain: a protocol for a feasibility randomised controlled trial (the GAMEBACK trial), Physiotherapy, Volume 103, Issue 2, 2017, Pages 146-153, ISSN 0031-9406, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physio.2016.05.004.
- Kimberly J. Miller, Brooke S. Adair, Alan J. Pearce, Catherine M. Said, Elizabeth Ozanne, Meg M. Morris; Effectiveness and feasibility of virtual reality and gaming system use at home by older adults for enabling physical activity to improve health-related domains: a systematic review, Age and Ageing, Volume 43, Issue 2, 1 March 2014, Pages 188–195, https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/aft194.