Video games aren't just for kids anymore. One in 25 people over 50 exercise using Nintendo's Wii Fit video game, according to a survey by Saga, the British services firm focused on people age 50 and up.
Since "exergames" hit the market, researchers have been studying the benefits of systems such as Playstation Move, the Wii and Microsoft's Kinect. An analysis by Michigan State University researchers published in November examined 16 such studies. It found while the video games offer some cardiovascular benefits, they don't measure up to a traditional workout.
"Findings suggest that while those games are good if you want to motivate those that are really sedentary... we cannot really rely (only) on these games," researcher Wei Peng told CNN.
On the other hand, the games are ideal for seniors because they provide a light-to-moderate workout. The best workout comes from systems that engage the entire body, rather than just requiring arm movements, she added.
Indeed, an Australian study of elderly people in 54 assisted living facilities who exercised using Wii technology found they experienced improvement in mobility, range of motion, dexterity, coordination and distraction from pain. Participants also enjoyed the benefits of social engagement and a higher sense of self-esteem from mastering the games.
Companies that cater to seniors are paying attention. In late 2008, Humana, the health insurer, began opening Guidance Centers in the U.S. where large concentrations of its 1.8 million members reside, including five midwestern states, Florida, Texas, Arizona and Nevada. The centers offer information and services about health plans, host community activities and offer active video games.
Check out the video below of seniors at Genista Aged Care in Australia enjoying the benefits of active video games.