Physical and cognitive benefits of interactive computer games for older adults

Gaming for health
Physical and cognitive effects of interactive computer games in older adults

From Journal of Applied Gerontology

The average age of the population is increasing, with many adults living with chronic disease, sensory and motor impairments, reduced physiological reserve, and frailty. Such age-related changes affect function, independence, and quality of life, generating a significant burden on health care systems. The health benefits of undertaking regular physical activity (PA) are extensive, and public health guidelines advise at least 30 minutes of PA each day. Developing methods to overcome barriers to PA and promote adherence to current guidelines is an increasing challenge for public health. Interactive computer games (ICGs) are increasingly used to promote fitness training and rehabilitation.
The aim of this research is to systematically review the evidence base and examine the physical and cognitive effects of physically based ICG in an older adult population. Researchers also consider how it affects user’s compliance, enjoyment, and safety during exercise. Results indicate there is preliminary evidence that ICG is a safe and effective exercise intervention for an older population, and may be associated with a range of physical and cognitive benefits. Future ICG interventions should be tailored toward older people, and should aim to optimize motivation, enjoyment, and safety within this population.



This systematic review examined the physical and cognitive effects of physically based interactive computer games (ICGs) in older adults. Literature searching was carried out from January 2000 to June 2011. Eligible studies were trials involving older adults (>65 years) describing the effects of ICGs with a physical component (aerobic, strength, balance, flexibility) on physical or cognitive outcomes. Secondary outcomes included adverse effects, compliance, and enjoyment. Twelve trials met the inclusion criteria. ICG interventions varied in terms of software, game type, and nature of the computer interaction. Although there was preliminary evidence that ICG is a safe and effective exercise intervention for older adults, the dearth of high-quality evidTence limits this finding. No major adverse effects were reported and two studies reported minor events. ICG could be improved further by tailoring interventions for older adults; in particular, they should aim to optimize participant safety, motivation, and enjoyment for this population.

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Article details

Chris M. Bleakley, Darryl Charles, Alison Porter-Armstrong, Michael D. J. McNeill, Suzanne M. McDonough, and Brendan McCormack
Gaming for Health: A Systematic Review of the Physical and Cognitive Effects of Interactive Computer Games in Older Adults
Journal of Applied Gerontology 0733464812470747, first published on January 17, 2013 doi:10.1177/0733464812470747




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