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Wii could help older Australians


Steve Spinks
26 April 2013
Can interactive computer games enhance the strength and increase the fitness of older Australians?

That’s the question Southern Cross University academics from the School of Health and Human Sciences will investigate when they run a pilot study using a Nintendo Wii games console to focus on strength and balance exercises to prevent falls and strengthen the lower limbs in older adults.

“There are a number of active Wii games that we can use with our participants to see whether it can help them physically,” principal research, Dr Suzanne Broadbent, said.

“There are some great balance and coordination games such as Table Tilt, Tightrope Walk, Penguin Slide and Ski Slalom, which improve weight transfer, lower leg strength, balance and hand-eye coordination, plus they are a lot of fun.

“For many older Australians exercise becomes a chore at a time of life when it so beneficial. Building up strength and fitness can help to avoid a fall as someone becomes older.

“It is estimated that more than 250,000 older people fall each year, some multiple times. Besides the very real human cost of a fall on someone elderly, there is also a considerable cost to the health service.

“A study in 2006-07 showed that there were 143,000 medically treated fall-related injuries among older people which resulted in lifetime treatments costs of more than $500 million.”

The researchers are looking for volunteers aged 60 years and over to participate in the study.

“We are seeking volunteers who don’t do a lot of exercise already, especially falls prevention strength training,” Dr Broadbent said.

“We will run the project in two, 12 week blocks. Volunteers will need to commit to exercise sessions with the Wii three days per week and the exercise sessions will be 30 to 40 minutes in duration.

“All of the exercise sessions will be run at the University’s Lismore campus. We will conduct some baseline strength and balance tests before and after the study.”

For further information please contact Dr Suzanne Broadbent on 02 6620 3394.

Photo: Research assistance Zac Crowley, left, with study participants Mavis Newell, George Newell and principal research Dr Suzanne Broadbent.