For far too long, video games have been a popular and all-to-easy punching bag for pop culture critics looking to pin society's failures on (and make excuses for) the lethargy and poor health habits of our nation's kids.
Over the past year, however, the reputation of video games may be turning a corner, thanks to a steadily growing number of studies supporting the use of video games as a fun and easy way to boost a child's activity levels, and, consequently, their health without a whole lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Even better for the collective health of Americans, not all of this recent good news is age-centric. Seniors can use video games -- specifically those made for Nintendo's Wii game console -- to help them fight Parkinson's disease and minor depression.
One report demonstrated how survivors of mild to moderate (ischemic) strokes who used virtual tennis and cooking games for the Wii to relearn their motor skills showed greater improvement (by 30 percent) than a control group assigned to more conventional card or block games.
Another study examined the use of Wii to jump-start the mental and physical health of seniors fighting subsyndromal depression, a common malady linked to functional disability and substantial suffering. More than a third of the patients who played a sports-themed Wii game of their choice on their own during 35-minute sessions three days a week (over two weeks) reduced the symptoms associated with their depression by at least 50 percent. And, many more enjoyed significant improvement in their mental health-related quality of life and greater cognitive stimulation.
More evidence that "youthful" things like the Wii or the iPhone aren't always "wasted" on the young...
American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 221-226, March 2010
ScienceDaily February 28, 2010
American Heart Association February 25, 2010
BusinessWeek February 25, 2010
Image source: Nintendo of America