Got a bad heart? A spot of virtual tennis is just the thing

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Got a bad heart? A spot of virtual tennis is just the thing

Playing videos games, or 'exergaming', works wonders for heart failure patients, say scientists

Journalist

Playing  video games that demand movement, a type of physical activity dubbed “exergaming”, improve the quality of life of heart failure patients, new research shows.
Head of the study Professor Tiny Jaarsma, from Linköping University in Sweden, said: “Exergaming is an alternative way for patients with heart failure to be physically active. It increases their fitness and can improve their wellbeing because they can do more in their day-to-day life.”
Standing in front of a TV set playing virtual tennis benefited wellbeing as well as increasing the potential to walk further, the scientists found.
Sylvia Shapshak, the mother of Stuff editor-in-chief Toby Shapshak, still wants to play virtual tennis at 90 years old.
When Wii Sports first came out, Shapshak gave his parents virtual games to test, including tennis, and they had such fun that they didn’t want to give the games back to him.
Half of the 600 participants in the latest HF-Wii study followed standard exercise routines and half were assigned to do exergaming.
They had the game set up for them at home, and a tutorial on how to play, and were advised to play for half an hour a day – the same duration as the other patients were advised.A six-minute walk test was used to test their exercise capacity after three months. The patients in the “exergame” group could walk 33m further on average than those in the other group, the researchers reported in 2017.
The new findings on how active video games impact on the wellbeing, anxiety and depression of the participants were presented this week at Heart Failure 2018 and the World Congress on Acute Heart Failure in Europe.
“The exergame group had greater improvement than the standard exercise group in all three variables, but only quality of life reached statistical significance,” the results showed.
Jaarsma said: “We think quality of life improved with exergaming because patients could walk further and do more activities around the house with those metres gained.
“Patients also told us they felt more included socially. They often played the game with friends, their spouse, or grandchildren. ‘They visit to beat grandmother’, said one patient.”For heart failure patients this is rejuvenating as they often feel their lives are restricted by a list of things they cannot do.
Jaarsma said: “This new way of exercising is something patients can do. Exergaming enables them to be active at home. For example, patients like being able to play tennis for half an hour with their spouse without having to go out.”
Researchers from the Pennysylvania School of Medicine recently found that gaming strategies, using activity trackers, and involving friends in exercise, were effective in boosting people’s physical activity.
Families who used fitness trackers with gaming elements reached daily fitness goals nearly 30% more than those who did not.
South Africa has major wellness programmes that successfully use incentives, like gaming does, to encourage people to exercise.

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