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Video games-based interventions for health promotion: can those be the future for exercises?

In general, we all have played some sort of video games in our childhood. Some games even managed to keep us glued to screens for hours as adults. While the games were largely designed for children in the beginning, they have gradually moved to cover all demographics. Types of available games extended too. There are many types of games, such as action games, action-adventure games, role-playing games, simulation games, strategy games, sports games, puzzle games (Vince, 2018). Exergames is another type of video game that require player to exert physical effort to progress. These have been particularly popular lately for their health benefits. Exergaming, fitness game, exer-gaming, or gamercising is a term used for video games that are also a form of exercise. Exergaming relies on technology that tracks body movement or reaction. Better known commercial exergames platforms are the Nintendo Wii Fit™ and Microsoft (Redmond) Kinect™.

Exergames require players to physically interact with on-screen avatars through various physical activities. These games may represent an alternative means in promoting physical activity participation and improving quality of life and life satisfaction. Indeed, the positive effects of these games on health-related outcomes have been reported among healthy children and youth.

From games for fun to games for health

As exercises might appear to be boring to some, especially with the required number of repetitions to get the desired results. In contrary, the videogames are thought to be fun. Initially, these video games have been viewed as a sedentary living room activity, used by children and adolescents. However, the release of the PlayStation-based Dance Dance Revolution™ video game in 2004, drew considerable media attention for making everyone move. Following the recent technological developments, the use of body movements to control video games has rapidly gained momentum (Yang, Smith, & Graham, 2008). It started in 2013 when, video games started to be sold for the purpose of exercising (Anguera & Gazzaley, 2015).

How video games-based interventions can be better than the traditional form of exercises

Several advantages are known for video games-based exercises compared to the traditional form of exercises. Video games may be played at home at a convenient time and space, and without any associated additional costs. These can motivate people to practice through an attractive and interactive way and train both motor and cognitive skills (Skjæret et al., 2016; van Diest et al., 2013). The players can also focus their attention on the outcomes of the movements in the game, not on the movements itself (Proffitt et al., 2015). Moreover, performing exercises to improve and score drives the participants to work hard consistently throughout the exercises along with providing them a sense of achievement while participating. Level of difficulty is progressive providing the building up challenges on individual basis. Overall, videogames make the exercise session fun along with the new achievements for participants to own.

Health conditions in which games were found useful

Video game-based interventions involving exergaming are being used in rehabilitation during different health conditions such as stroke, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s disease (Bonnechère, Jansen, Omelina, & Van Sint, 2016). These are conditions related to impaired function of the nervous system and requiring considerable amount of rehabilitation. Games may provide the needed regular input with relatively low cost.

Along with being used in specific health conditions game-based interventions have been found to be increasing the level of physical activity and cognitive function in elderly (Garcia et al., 2016; Garcia, Sundara, Tabor, Gay, & Leong, 2019), along with preventing falls (Schoene et al., 2013), and improving balance in elderly people (Laufer, Dar, & Kodesh, 2014).

Where we are heading to

We, here at the Department of Kinesiology, University of Virginia, USA, are conducting a research study on participants with knee osteoarthritis within the age of 40-75 years, with the focus on lower limb particularly major thigh muscles strength training such as quadriceps and, hamstring. This study is incorporating the principles of biofeedback and gaming, progressively incorporating resistance exercises. Participants will take part in the study for 12 weeks and strength and balance will be measured at baseline and follow up. Hoping for the interesting results, so stay tuned!!!

Potential problems in acceptance of video games as an alternative form of exercise

In general, poor literacy rate, less or no prior experience with gaming, lack of knowledge regarding correct technique of specific exercise may affect the acceptance of exergaming. Repetition of the same game environment could lead to decrease in the interest in continuing game-based exercise. Therefore, developers may need to design more engaging and progressive modes and stages throughout the games. Once these hurdles are overcome, gaming has the potential to add another dimension to home-based exercises.

Enjoy reading!



Anguera, J. A., & Gazzaley, A. (2015). Video games, cognitive exercises, and the enhancement of cognitive abilities. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 4, 160-165.

Bonnechère, B., Jansen, B., Omelina, L., & Van Sint, J. (2016). The use of commercial video games in rehabilitation: a systematic review. International journal of rehabilitation research, 39(4), 277-290.

Garcia, J. A., Schoene, D., Lord, S. R., Delbaere, K., Valenzuela, T., & Navarro, K. F. (2016). A bespoke Kinect stepping exergame for improving physical and cognitive function in older people: A pilot study. Games for health journal, 5(6), 382-388.

Garcia, J. A., Sundara, N., Tabor, G., Gay, V. C., & Leong, T. W. (2019). Solitaire Fitness: Design of an asynchronous exergame for the elderly to enhance cognitive and physical ability. Paper presented at the 2019 IEEE 7th International Conference on Serious Games and Applications for Health (SeGAH).

Laufer, Y., Dar, G., & Kodesh, E. (2014). Does a Wii-based exercise program enhance balance control of independently functioning older adults? A systematic review. Clinical interventions in aging, 9, 1803.

Schoene, D., Lord, S. R., Delbaere, K., Severino, C., Davies, T. A., & Smith, S. T. (2013). A randomized controlled pilot study of home-based step training in older people using videogame technology. PloS one, 8(3), e57734.

Vince. (2018). The Many Different Types of Video Games & Their Subgenres. Retrieved from

Yang, S., Smith, B., & Graham, G. (2008). Healthy video gaming: Oxymoron or possibility? Innovate: Journal of Online Education, 4(4).