Clinician Article

The effect of virtual reality gaming on dynamic balance in older adults.

  • Rendon AA
  • Lohman EB
  • Thorpe D
  • Johnson EG
  • Medina E
  • Bradley B
Age Ageing. 2012 Jul;41(4):549-52. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afs053. Epub 2012 Jun 6. (Original)
PMID: 22672915
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  • Geriatrics
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 4/7
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 4/7


BACKGROUND: physical therapy interventions that increase functional strength and balance have been shown to reduce falls in older adults.

AIM: this study compared a virtual reality group (VRG) and a control group (CG).

DESIGN: randomised controlled 6-week intervention with pre- and post-test evaluations.

SETTING: outpatient geriatric orthopaedic and balance physical therapy clinic.

POPULATION: forty participants were randomised into two groups.

METHOD: the VRG received three different Nintendo® Wii FIT balance interventions three times per week for 6 weeks and the CG received no intervention.

RESULTS: compared with the CG, post-intervention measurements showed significant improvements for the VRG in the 8-foot Up & Go test [median decrease of 1.0 versus -0.2 s, (P=0.038) and the Activities-specific Balance Confidence Scale (6.9 versus 1.3%) (P=0.038)].

CONCLUSION: virtual reality gaming provides clinicians with a useful tool for improving dynamic balance and balance confidence in older adults.

Clinical Comments


Initial, hypothesis generating study, at best. There are a number of limitations, some of which the authors themselves highlight, including inadequate description of randomisation process, lack of generalisability, no control group intervention (i.e. standard physiotherapy sessions). Importantly, the authors provide no data to support their assertion that the intervention 'reduces fall risk'; this statement should not have passed peer-review.

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

This study tells us that some intervention is probably better than nothing. If the usefulness of WII is to be ascertained, it needs to be compared with a gold standard for mobility and balance, not a do nothing control group.

Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Because of the highly selected group and differences in the two interventions, in addition to virtual reality, the results are difficult to interpret.

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