30 April 2010

Therapeutic Uses of a Nintendo Wii

By Bryan Cohen, eHow Contributing Writer

The Nintendo Wii brings physical activity to gaming.The Nintendo Wii gaming system was released in late 2006. With the creation of the WiiFit companion and the balance board, Nintendo has embraced the public's use of the console for weight management and exercise. The Wii has found its way into retirement homes, hospitals and physical training offices throughout the world as a new way to meld entertainment and therapy.

For Seniors

In Anaheim, the VIP Adult Day Health Care Center holds Wii gaming sessions twice a month. After just three months, the employees noticed that the seniors who attended had improved their motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Feedback from the patients was so positive that Dennis Miyadi, the occupational therapist in charge of the center has continued the Wii use and expanded it to their sister center in Santa Ana. The patients enjoy the games, cheer each other on and have the opportunity to play sports like table tennis or bowling which they gave up due to injury, age or poor health. The use of the Wii encourages older adults to be active and may improve their overall health.

Physical Therapy

Using the balance board, the wheel and the regular Wii controllers, physical therapists are incorporating game playing into their therapy sessions. Certain games synced up with the balance board can track the progress of a patient in a fun way that a chart, pencil and paper could not. Keeping the therapy entertaining and engaging is a must for a center that has many child or teenage patients. An article in Personal Training Magazine cites that introducing the Wii to patients has lead to a big jump in positive attitude about therapy and an increase in treatment compliance.

Surgery Recovery

The Wii has been used to help patients recover muscle after having had surgeries like back surgery or knee replacement. The fitness package of the Wii helps these patients to improve their weight bearing and balance. The modifications available on the Wii allow patients who are still very weak after surgery to accomplish the motions to play the games. This type of therapy can be used after surgery, accidents or anything else that requires a long road back to recovery. When the road is paved with cute characters and bright colors, it may not seem as long or tough for the patients.

Brain Damage Recovery

The University Medical Center at Ohio State University in Columbus has begun using the Wii as therapy for patients who have recently had strokes, traumatic brain injuries or spinal cord damage. One patient used the Wii fitness games to rebuild the muscles in his right side that had been immobilized post-stroke. Other aspects of the Wii, such as the news and weather channels may also be able to improve brain function due to its simple interface.

Other Recovery Benefits

Many therapy sessions tend to be one-on-one sessions, but with a Wii, multiple people can be involved at once. This adds a social aspect to therapy that can help recovery in a more indirect way: with friendship. By socializing, patients can have an improvement in self-esteem, which can help future training and the patient's attitude. In patients engaging in therapy who are overweight, the Wii tracks Body Mass Index (BMI) and weight. These tracking functions can help patients to set weight loss goals during their training as well.

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