Gaming Against Heart Disease in Diabetic Patients

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 Training indoors with Wii Fit. © Nintendo 2015

Training indoors with Wii Fit. © Nintendo 2015

Exercise is healthy - this applies to all of us, especially though for people suffering from type 2 diabetes. Researchers from the University of Basel were able to show that fitness games, or "exergames", for the Nintendo Wii console are suitable to increase cardiorespiratory fitness in type 2 diabetic patients and thus lower the risk of related heart disease. The study has been published by the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.

Regular physical activity can not only help to prevent diabetes but is also crucial in managing the disease in patients already affected in order to decrease their risk of cardiovascular diseases. These are common and dangerous side comorbidities of type 2 diabetes and have been shown to occur with a 56 percent higher probability in patients with low levels of fitness. Despite these facts, many – especially elderly – patients neglect their physical fitness.

In order to motivate elderly diabetic patients to become more physically active, a team of sports scientists led by sports physician Professor Arno Schmidt-Trucksäss from the Department of Sports, Exercise and Health at the University of Basel used the Nintendo Wii console. Wii Fit Plus exercises feature fluid movements, simple instructions and a low risk of injury. They are suitable for diabetes patients because the training intensity is self-adjusting based on the individual fitness level and the exertion level lies between 40 and 60 percent of the maximal exhaustion – an ideal level for type 2 diabetes patients.

Boxing, obstacle course and cycling

Ten male and two female participants between the age of 45 to 70 years with non-insulin-dependent diabetes and a body mass index bigger than 25 took part in this study. During ten minute slots, the participants exercised in the Wii Fit disciplines boxing, obstacle course and cycling. The results indicate that the training with the game console can lead to similar results than traditional physical activity. In combination with other activities such as walking or cycling it can strengthen the metabolism of patients and thus significantly lower the risk of heart disease.

“Due to the small number of participants, generalization of the results is limited”, writes first author Christoph Höchsmann. Larger studies and randomized samples would be necessary to confirm the findings from this study. Since exergames are relatively unknown among elderly people, the search for suitable test subjects is proving to be difficult. “Future exergames might include target group-appropriate game design and game content, in order to raise awareness for this type of physical activity”, say the researchers.

Original source
Christoph Höchsmann, Nicole Zürcher, Andrea Stamm, Arno Schmidt-Trucksäss
Cardiorespiratory Exertion While Playing Video Game Exercises in Elderly Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes
Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine (2015), doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000258