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Exer-gamers of any age reap health benefits

Apr 25th, 2012
Staff Writer

Exer-GamingVideo exercise games provide fitness benefits for people of all ages, but the games can also contribute to the brain health of older people, according to two new studies.

In one study published in the Games for Health Journal, researchers found that home-based video "exergames" can provide a satisfactory aerobic workout for older adults. The study showed that video exercise games improved older individuals' mobility and therapeutic activity, promoted social interaction, self-esteem and confidence and helped them connect with their "former selves." However, sometimes the game technology caused frustration or led to fatigue or skin irritation from over-exertion.

In a second study also in the current issue of the journal, researchers identified the key features that create interest in exergaming in older people. Those factors include the social aspect of the experience, the challenge the game presents, the combination of cognitive and physical activity experience and the ability to gain specific skills as a result of gaming.

"Experienced older games are social, community-oriented gamers, and special emphasis is placed on social contacts, mutual help during the game, sharing game objectives, chatting about everyday topics during the game sessions, and/or being connected to one's significant other," the authors wrote.

Digital games can motivate people to take better care of themselves and to self-manage chronic conditions, whether at home or in care facilities, said Bill Ferguson, editor-in-chief of Games for Health Journal.

"The elderly often forsake their lifelong activities in exchange for the safety, security, and care of institutional living," Ferguson said. "This trade-off need not require the sacrifice of physical activity and fitness. Furthermore, videogames offer an escape from routine. All of these benefits can improve the well-being of elderly adults."