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Wii Games Can Get Seniors Moving

Activity-oriented video gaming may benefit overweight older folks, researchers say

FRIDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Certain kinds of video games -- like Nintendo's Wii Sports -- may help overweight seniors become more physically active and burn calories, new research suggests.

Although not an improvement on real-life gaming and sports activity, the study team found that movement-oriented video games offer a good alternative for those older individuals for whom real sports participation is a remote option.

"Few studies have investigated the use of active video games in aging populations or individuals with disabilities," Elizabeth Orsega-Smith, associate professor of health, nutrition and exercise sciences at the University of Delaware, said in a news release.

"Given that 40 percent of older-adult females and 30 [percent] of males ages 70 and above do not participate in any significant physical activity, this population faces growing health challenges," she said. "For otherwise sedentary people, games like the Wii offer an enjoyable way to become more active and more healthy."

Orsega-Smith and her colleagues were scheduled to report their findings Friday in Baltimore at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine.

To assess the exercise potential of different Wii games, the authors outfitted 24 overweight to obese men and women with wrist-worn accelerometers to measure the number of calories burned while playing games for a half hour. All were between 66 and 78 years old.

The research team found that those who played an individual bowling version of Wii burned between 20 and 176 calories during the exercise. Team bowling was less beneficial, consuming 18 to 89 calories, baseball 22 to 144, and tennis 17 to 72.

"Wii playing," concluded Orsega-Smith, "may be a vehicle for physical activity participation, especially for those older adults who do not have access to a fitness facility or who may have physical limitations to their mobility."

More information

For more on seniors and physical fitness, visit the American Academy of Family Physicians.

-- Alan Mozes

SOURCE: American College of Sports Medicine, news release, June 3, 2010

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