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Exergames can enhance social well-being of older adults

Li J, Petticrew M, Erdt M, Chen L, Cao Y, Lee S, Theng Y. The social effects of exergames on older adults: Systematic review and metric analysis Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2018; 20(6): e10486.

Review question

•    What are the social effects of exergames on older adults?


      Exergames, which combine digital gaming and physical exercise, have emerged as a form of popular daily exercises.

      Despite being originally designed for entertainment, exergames are increasingly used for health promotion.

      The social effects of exergames have also drawn considerable attention. Exergaming is a social experience giving the players opportunities to interact with each other, which can in turn foster social relationships among the players.

      This systematic review examines the effects of exergaming on the social well-being of older adults.

How the review was done

      A comprehensive literature search was conducted in major social-science databases, including PsycINFO, PubMed, CINAHL, and ScienceDirect.

      Potential studies were identified using a combination of terms relevant to exergames, social interactions, and ageing.

      Reference lists of the included studies and relevant reviews were also examined for additional studies to be included.

      A total of 319 articles published before 22 January 2017 were identified, and ten were included in the review after assessing their eligibility.

      The characteristics of exergames, participants (country, sample size, age, and profile), methodology (study design and duration), as well as outcomes measured were extracted from the studies.

      This research was supported by the National Research Foundation of Singapore under its National Innovation Challenge on Active and Confident Ageing and the National Research Foundation, Prime Minister's Office, Singapore under its Science of Research, Innovation and Enterprise program.

What the researchers found

      Of the 10 studies included, eight investigated social effects of exergames using Nintendo Wii, while two studies used Microsoft Xbox Kinect. Both platforms are the most popular exergaming platforms in the current market, and both offer console-based devices and games which make exergaming possible in the home setting.

      Most of the studies recruited healthy older adults from local communities or senior activity centers.

      The included studies identified three types of social-related outcomes: emotion-related, behavior-related, and attitude-related outcomes. Emotion-related and behavior-related outcomes were the focus of most studies.

      Loneliness was identified to be the main emotion-related social outcome affected by exergames. Results from two studies indicated that older adults using exergames had a significantly lower level of loneliness than those playing traditional board games or watching television.

      When examining attitudes, one study found that older adults playing exergames had a significant lower social presence than those engaging in traditional exercises. However, a second study revealed that playing exergames with youths led to improvement in older adults’ attitude toward youths.


      Overall, the majority of exergame studies demonstrated promising results to improve social well-being, such as reduced loneliness, increased social connection (although one study pointed out to lower social presence), and improved attitudes towards youths.

Related Topics


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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