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Wii-Fit helps improve balance, gait for assisted living residents

thumbnail Balance booster—Veteran Jerry Izzard receives an explanation of the Wii-Fit from Dr. Kalpana Padala at the Central Arkansas Healthcare System's North Little Rock facility. (Photo by Jeff Bowen)

A small study led by a group with the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Little Rock (Ark.) VA Medical Center found that assisted living residents with mild Alzheimer's disease benefited from using the Wii-Fit. The interactive Nintendo video game has users stand on a special balance board as they engage in yoga, strength training, or balance games. A virtual trainer talks them through the activities while tracking their progress and giving them visual and auditory feedback. In the study, 22 older men and women were assigned to either the Wii-Fit or a walking program, 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for eight weeks. Participants in both groups, including those at high risk for falls, showed improved gait and balance. The authors say the Wii-Fit may have extra advantages in that it is designed to be socially engaging and entertaining. They add that the game is "enjoyable, easily accessible, and is not limited by [the need for] a safe place to walk." (Journal of Aging Research, 2012)

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