Therapists are always looking for new ways to achieve compliance and consistency in their patients’ rehabilitation programs. Although not designed for this purpose, Nintendo’s Wii Fit/ Wii Fit Plus, XBox Kinect and Playstation Move all show promise as complementary tools to traditional methods. Anything that makes repetitive exercises fun and holds a patients’ interest for extended periods will ensure a successful therapeutic outcome.
Studies have shown that gaming consoles are effective across age groups, in home-based and in clinic-based settings, and applicable for a range of impairments. A 2010 Elon University and a 2011 University of Missouri study found that elderly patients’ compliance and balance performance increased significantly when the Wii Fit and Xbox Kinect, respectively, were incorporated into their therapy. Kinect technology which is able to gauge subtle changes in patients’ gait and movements could lead to earlier intervention. In 2008, a first of its kind University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey study, showed the complementary benefits of the Wii Fit system to improve posture control, functional mobility and visual perceptual processing in a cerebral palsy patient. Kinect has been used successfully by Lakeside Center For Autism to ameliorate bilateral coordination and speech language pathologies in children. Playstation Move was employed effectively in the U.K. and the U.S. for stroke victims suffering from aphasia and functional limitations.
The gaming world and scientific community continues to stretch the boundaries of the therapeutic applications of this software. Recently, Michigan State University’s College of Nursing concluded that using Wii Fit reduced fatigue and enhanced overall recovery in post-surgical lung cancer patients. Undoubtedly, applications will be found for other types of cancer recovery programs as well. Although, more evidence-based research is needed, the findings to date suggest that this could be one more inexpensive and useful tool for the therapist to have in their arsenal.