Play Nintendo Wii to stay fit


Nintendo-funUntil recently, the thought of treating medical condition via playing video games was not very practical.  Although, there was discussion around certain video games that can help response time of brain. But still, since childhood we have been told not to play video games for a long time as it can cause various medical problems such as impact on vision.  Games have evolved over the past decades with tremendous improvement in graphics.  At the same time, games have become violent, which has been concern of the parents.


In recent years, video game addiction has climbed to new heights.  Research shows that as much as 92% of children between 2-17 years of age play video games.  The typical problems associated with long term use of video game may include crooked posture, pain in hands and sometimes damage to joints.Nintendo-just-fun


Well, times have changed for video game fanatics. The Nintendo Wii, which costs around $249, is designed for gamers to play virtual sports. Nintendo Wii console has attracted children, elders and even people who, generally do not  play video games. Nintendo produced a spectacular spin in the video game industry by integrating the experience of video game with sports.  Wii is gradually making its way into hospitals and physical therapy clinics to supplement and accelerate patients’ recovery process.  Let us look how medical industry is utilizing Nintendo Wii and get a flavor of applications of Wii that you can implement in your daily routine. 


What is different about Nintendo Wii?

Nintendo Wii console comes with motion censor controls.  Wii has developed many games such as golf, basket ball, boxing and what not.  You have a remote in your hand and as you swing your hand to perfect your drive in golf, the controls respond to your motions.  As a result, you will see the person in the screen swing in parallel. This is what has grabbed the most attention; ability to move around and play the video games.


What are the medical uses of Nintendo Wii?


Helps in Weight loss: The Nintendo Wii Fit can help in improving your balance and posture, and get you into shape. The variety of fitness activities and games include yoga, aerobics, strength training, and balance games, provide you ways to slim down and shape up.  A study published in January 2008 issue of Pediatrics; Mayo Clinic found that children who played “active” video games like Nintendo Wii burned three times more calories as compared to the children who played traditional hand-held video games.


Helps in Arthritis: Arthritis is an inflammation of bone joints which is accompanied by joint pain. People who suffer with arthritis are in need of physical activity in order to maintain a healthy and active life. Movement of the joints promotes strength by stretching tendons and muscles, thereby helps bone structure.




Many Physical Therapists are using Nintendo’s Wii Fit as a physiotherapy aid to encourage arthritic patients to do their crucial daily exercises.  The Wii uses motion sensor controls, which means that the gamer has to move around in order to play the game. Not only it provides a fun way of doing some of the therapeutic exercises, but it beats the same aerobic step and joint exercise routines that can make patients bore.nintendo-wii-headset

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Helps in Stroke: A stroke occurs when a blood clot forms in a damaged vessel, which blocks the flow of blood to the brain. Doctors says that use of Nintendo Wii games like tennis, golf or boxing can help stroke victims recover more quickly without any harsh impact on the body.. Moreover, it’s fun. Doctors in the U.S. are now beginning to use the Wii to help stroke victims regain movement in their arms and legs. Furthermore, German clinicians have also been reported to use the Wii to speed up recovery in injured soldiers.


Helps in Parkinson’s disease: Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease that impairs motor skills. Dr. Ben Herz, program director and assistant professor of Allied Health Sciences Department of Occupational Therapy, Georgia, US mentioned that the Nintendo Wii allows patients to work in a virtual environment like visual perception, eye-hand coordination, figure-ground relationships and sequenced movements that is safe, fun and motivational treatment tool.


An 8 week study conducted on 20 Parkinson’s patients revealed that patients playing video games showed significant improvements in rigidity, movement, fine motor skills and energy levels. Dr. Herz stated that “Perhaps most impressively, most patient’s depression levels decreased to zero”.  This is significant outcome as 45 percent or higher Parkinson’s patients are reported to suffer from depression.


Dr. Ben’s study also revealed that Wii exercise effects can increase the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter deficient in Parkinson’s patients.  Dopamine helps in improving voluntary and functional movements.


Helps in Rehabilitation process: Rehabilitation is the process of restoring and regaining physical strength and function. Such patients require intensive physical therapy for recovering from strokes, broken bones, surgery and even combat injuries. Patients often complain that physical therapy is repetitive, boring and torturous.


The new approach called ‘Wii-habilitation’ or “Wiihab” is changing the dynamics of Physical Therapy. Wiihab allows patients to play Wii video games such as baseball, bowling, boxing, golf and tennis as part of their physical therapy routine. 


Doctors consider it to be an excellent alternative to traditional therapies as it not only helps to improve muscle movement, but at the same time, it exercises the mind.  Patients are engrossed in playing the games to the level that patients ignore or forget the discomfort, which is very essential in the recovery process. Rehab centers across the country having patients with varying level of injuries, such as spinal cord, paralysis in certain part of body and so on are utilizing this fun way to treat their patients.  Elizabeth Penny, therapist at WakeMed Health, NC says that Wii improved endurance, strength and coordination in the patients.


Wii comes handy even in occupational therapy and helps patients relearn daily living skills including brushing teeth, combing hair and fastening clothes.


Nintendo Wii has added new dimensions to the gaming industry. There is no doubt that Nintendo Wii is a “more active” form of computer gaming unlike traditional hand-held or TV video games, where users sit on the couch, exercising no more than their thumbs.


The Wii represents innovation in a way that players interact with games through the use unique motion sensor controllers, Wii also provides a more intuitive and interactive means of gaming experience, requiring body movements similar to traditional therapy exercises.  This might be the reason Nintendo Wii has not only taken place in various living rooms but also has become a part of various clinics and hospital settings. Apparently, it has proven itself to be a valuable resource in improving the quality of patients’ physique.


Nintendo Wii popularity has extended way beyond the teenagers.  As per Dr. Penny, Wii’s fan base extends from age group of 9 years to 80 years. If you are looking for a Christmas present for your kids or parents, Nintendo Wii is something that you can consider.  I am sure, both will enjoy it equally.



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