Fitness games can help fight depression in seniors!

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A new study has found that fitness games, also known as ‘exergames,’ can help relieve depression and its symptoms in seniors, especially if the games have a highly playful element.

Researchers from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, looked at 49 senior adults with subthreshold depression, a more minor, rather than major, depressive disorder.

The team set up two experimental conditions as part of their six-week study: high playfulness — in which seniors played the very playful Wii Sport games and low playfulness — where seniors played the Wii Fit training, which concentrated more on exercise alone and less on the playful aspect of the game.

The participants’ depression, positive emotions, and self-efficacy — their belief in their own ability to complete tasks and succeed — were all measured before and after the six-week study.

After taking into account variables such as age and gender the results showed that all participants showed improvements in their subthreshold depression and self-efficacy, regardless of which gaming condition they had been placed in.

And although participants in the low playfulness group also showed an improvement in their positive emotions, it was the participants in the high playfulness that showed a significantly higher improvement in this particular area, showing that the positive effects of gaming can be increased further by choosing a game with a highly playful element.

The researchers now believe that their results can help in the future development of exergames to improve mental health, and not just physical health, among older adults.

The full study can be found online in the Games for Health Journal.

Many previous studies have already shown that as well as helping to improve physical health though playing exergames, video games can have various other health benefits for players of all ages.

A 2013 UK study found that playing video games in which players need to use memory and tactical skills, such as the video game “StarCraft,” could help to train the brain to become more agile and improve strategic thinking.

And an earlier 2013 US study found that playing video games may prevent and even reverse a decline in cognitive skills such as memory, reasoning and visual processing in the over-50s.

A study published earlier this year which also focused on the benefits of exergames showed that playing the Nintendo Wii for 20 to 30 minutes per day for just one week can also help reduce pain for burn victims by helping the patients get used to moving again and giving positive feedback to nerves.

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