Video game technology helps Veterans improve their balance, get moving

When 69-year-old Vietnam Veteran Robert Brown was looking for ways to increase his balance and physical activity, he joined VA’s Wii FitTM pilot research study at Little Rock, Ark. Motivated to lose weight, he overcame his concerns about falling and started walking and exercising again on a regular basis.

Brown and other Veterans took part in the VA- funded study led by Dr. Kalpana Padala at VA’s Geriatrics Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in Little Rock.

Dr. Padala and Brown are pictured above along with research coordinator Christopher Parkes.

The study involved a randomly assigned group of 30 participants.  Researchers used the Wii ™ program, comparing results with a control group that completed computer-based mental exercises.

The Nintendo® Wii Fit™ Plus program includes a Wii console, Wii balance board, and Wii remote.  It consists of balance games, yoga, strength training, aerobics and training plus (more advanced activities). Balance exercises involved posture control (e.g. Half Moon, Torso Twist), weight shifting (e.g. Ski Slalom), multidirectional balance (e.g. Table Tilt), and multidirectional balance while doing a mental activity (e.g. Perfect 10).

Combining activity with technology is the focus

The results showed 12 times greater improvement in balance among the older Veterans using the Wii Fit™ program compared to the control group.  Results were published in the Journal of Aging Research. Dr. Padala said the study’s results show promise to help understand and improve mobility in older adults. “Combining physical activity with readily available technology is