Exercise Video Games May Significantly Improve Subsyndromal Depression in Older Adults

The symptoms of subsyndromal depression in older adults may significantly improve with regular use of �exergames,� or video games that combine game play with exercise, according to the results of a recent University of California San Diego study,

In older adults playing an exergame on the Wii led to a 50% or greater reduction in depressive symptoms for more than one-third of study participants. Additionally, according to Jeste, many participants “had a significant improvement in their mental health-related quality of life and increased cognitive stimulation.”

For the study, 19 participants with SSD age 63-94 years played an exergame during 35-minute sessions three times a week. After initial instruction, the participants were allowed to choose their own exergame—tennis, bowling, baseball, golf, or boxing. The sessions led to reports of high satisfaction, based on judgment of several different criteria—enjoyment, mental effort, and physical limitations.

“The participants thought the exergames were fun, they felt challenged to do better and saw progress in their game play,” Jeste said. “Having a high level of enjoyment and satisfaction, and a choice among activities, exergames may lead to sustained exercise in older adults.

Because of the small sample size, Jeste cautions that study results need to be replicated with larger groups that include control subjects. In addition, physicians should keep in mind that exergames do pose the potential risk of injury and should be played with care.

The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry

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Study results were published in

The symptoms of subsyndromal depression (SSD) in older adults may significantly improve with regular use of “exergames,” or video games that combine game play with exercise, according to the results of a recent University of California San Diego study, led by Dilip V. Jeste, MD, professor of psychiatry and neurosciences at UCSD School of Medicine and director of the UC San Diego Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging.