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Evidence Summary

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Wii-based exercise programs help to improve balance of older adults

Laufer Y, Dar G, Kodesh E. Does a Wii-based exercise program enhance balance control of independently functioning older adults? A systematic review Clin Interv Aging. 2014; 9: 1803-1813.

Review question

Are Wii-based exercise programs effective in improving balance control for independently functioning older adults?

Background

Falls and fall-related injuries are more common for individuals over 65 years. Exercise programs to improve balance have been shown to reduce the risk of falls in older adults. Virtual reality computer-based technologies such as the Wii have become popular as exercise tools for physical rehabilitation and have the potential to improve balance control.

How the review was done

This is a review of 7 randomized controlled trials. The studies included 285 participants over age 55, with an average age of 70.  

126 people participated in Wii exercise programs which included games using the Wii Balance Board and/or Wii remote. The others were in control groups: they either received no treatment, or they participated in another type of exercise program. Programs ran for at least 12 sessions, which were between 35 and 90 minutes long. The studies measured participants’ balance before and after the program.  

What the researchers found

The quality of the included studies was variable. Most of the included studies measured balance using the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test which assesses the time it takes to get up from a chair, walk a specified distance and sit back down in the chair.  Four studies compared the Wii-based exercise program to no exercise program, and all 4 found that the Wii program significantly improved participants’ balance using the TUG test. The other 3 studies compared the Wii-based exercise program to another type of exercise program and found that both approaches helped to improve balance, although it was not clear whether using the Wii was as effective as other types of exercise.  There was no information about whether participants’ balance continued to improve after the programs ended.

Conclusion

Wii-based exercise programs improve balance control for older adults with comparable benefits to other exercise programs. More quality studies are needed to decide the best approaches and benefits of using Wii-based exercise programs for improving balance control in older adults living at home.




Glossary

Control group
A group that receives either no treatment or a standard treatment.
Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.

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DISCLAIMER These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

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