Videos games are something you either love or hate. They undoubtedly give some people – children and adults alike – endless hours of entertainment. To others they bring with them health concerns, mainly due to the sedentary life they are seen to encourage. The launch of products such as the Nintendo Wii revolutionised video gaming.  It got the user off the sofa and physically taking part in the game. This was a step forward for the more health conscious amongst us, although, some would argue no substitute to being outside and playing the sport for real!

However, researchers in Italy have evidence of users receiving a direct health benefit from using games requiring the Nintendo Wii Balance Board. It is the specific high-intensity, task orientated exercises, necessary for the use of the Balance Board, that are beneficial to sufferers of multiple sclerosis (MS).

MS affects your central nervous system. A major symptom is having difficulties with balance; this means injuries as a result of falls are common in MS patients.

Signature Nintendo Wii games utilising the Balance Board, such as slalom skiing, require high-intensity, task orientated exercises. It is these specific exercises that have been shown to help improve the balance and movement of MS patients. Using a technique called Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) the users’ brains were monitored. It showed that changes in the nerve tracts of the brain, important for balance and movement, correlated with improvements in balance. The exercises performed on the Balance Board can be tailored to the patient to improve the specific symptoms they experience.

This example of the coming together of science and technology from very different spheres could have a major impact on the lives of MS patients.

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