Wii, WiiFit, Exercise and Physical Therapy

Brilliant. Note the subtitle for my blog? 🙂 Keep an eye out for the WiiFit. Hello, Sony? Hello, Microsoft? Where are yooouuuu? This is just the beginning:

Nintendo Wii popular choice for therapists, children
WICHITA FALLS, Texas — Jackson Peterson is running fast.

He’s running in place, moving his arms back and forth. So excited about the virtual race he is running that his physical therapist, Barbara Maxwell, is having trouble catching up with him — on screen, of course.

“Oh, there he goes, got him,” said Maxwell, a little winded after catching up to her client in one of the activities of the interactive Wii Fit, a popular video game on the Nintendo Wii console.

The North Texas Rehabilitation Center has recently adapted the highly interactive game console into its physical therapy program.

“It gets them moving, and it is something that is interacting with them; they don’t realize they are doing therapy,” said Susan Knowles-Martin, Director of Marketing and Development for the center.

According to an article in PT Magazine, a professional magazine of the American Physical Therapy Association, physical therapists around the nation have been introducing the Wii to patients. This has led to a dramatic increase in treatment compliance and a general upbeat attitude about therapy.

“It’s about making the therapy interactive and fun,” said Knowles-Martin, who explained that because of the large number of children treated at the center, the Wii has allowed them to make therapy sessions more fun.

“It’s perfect for a facility like this. Half of our clients are kids from 3 years old all the way up to teenagers,” she said.

The trick is in the motion. The Wii Fit uses a unique platform called the Wii Balance Board that can measure a user’s weight and center of gravity. The game has about 40 different activities, which include yoga, aerobics and various balance games which have allowed the therapists to target specific areas of concern.

“It’s a way to measure their progress,” said Lesa Enlow, director of programs, who was showing the game off to a group of students from Archer City High School visiting the facility.

“This balance stuff is hard,” said one of the students as he stood on his toes while attempting a high jump in the ski-jumping module of Wii Fit.

Enlow sees the Wii as a training tool that can adapt to the needs of their clients as well.

“It’s modifiable enough to where you can be disabled and still use it,” she said.

The Wii wireless controller can also be used as a handheld pointing device since it can detect acceleration and orientation in three dimensions. This allows for therapists to use the game controller to measure various types of movements, she said.

“We have a machine back there for wheelchair patients; the wheel simulates the turning and you can do the exact same thing with the Wii,” Knowles-Martin said. “Instead of keeping them in the gym, you can have them turn a steering wheel with the Wii and watch their wrist movement.”

The Wii also has other therapeutic uses. According to PT Magazine, rehabilitation clinics around the country are making use of the Wii fitness package for improving weight bearing and balance in patients following total knee replacement or back surgery.

So far it has been a hit with the younger clients like Jackson.

As his head moved from one side to the other, a little character on the screen was heading soccer balls back to the kicker.

“Wow! I got it,” he said as the 20 minutes of physical therapy came to an end.

Knowles-Martin said kids see the game as play instead of an extension of therapy.

“Since they have a shorter attention span, you have to incorporate play into therapy. If it’s not fun to them and they don’t know why they are doing it, they won’t do it,” she said. “With the Wii they can see how good they do and it gets them excited.”


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