Regular Wii Fit workouts proved as effective as a robust walking routine in reducing the risk for falling in older people with mild Alzheimer disease (AD), says a Medscape Medical News article based on a study published online June 13 in Journal of Aging Research.
Researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences assessed fall risk with 3 tests of balance and gait in 22 elderly people enrolled in 1 of 2 exercise interventions. Eleven participants were assigned to a supervised walking program, and 11 used the Wii Fit yoga, strength-training, and balance games. Each group exercised 5 times weekly for 30 minutes over 8 weeks.
The participants were tested with the Berg Balance Scale (BBS), the Tinetti Test (TT), and Timed Up and Go (TUG) test before they began exercising, at the 4-week point, and after 8 weeks. Research participants lived in an assisted-living facility.
Both groups showed improvements on all 3 tests, with no statistically significant difference between the groups. Both groups began with a BBS score of less than 45, indicating a high risk for falls, and significantly improved those scores over time. But group-by-time interactions failed to reach significance for any measure.
In an intragroup analysis, at 8 weeks the Wii Fit group showed statistically significant improvements in BBS and TT scores. Wii Fit TUG scores did not reach significance.
In the walking group, an intragroup analysis showed a significant improvement in TT scores. However, although BBS and TUG scores trended toward improvement, they failed to reach statistical significance.
Robert P. Friedland, MD, chair and professor of neurology at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, who was not involved in the research, calls the study a "relatively limited observation." He added that the mean age of the participants—79.3 years for the Wii Fit group and 81.6 years for the walking group—rather than the disease probably led to their balance issues.