Older adults with type 2 diabetes who play fitness games on a video game console can increase their cardiorespiratory fitness, thereby lowering their risk of related heart disease, according to researchers from the University of Basel in Switzerland. Their study has been published by the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine.

To motivate older adults with diabetes to become more physically active, a team of sports scientists led by Arno Schmidt-Trucksäss, M.D., a professor of sports, exercise and health, used the Nintendo Wii console. Wii Fit Plus exercises, according to the researchers, feature fluid movements and simple instructions and are associated with a low risk of injury. Also, users can adjust the training intensity themselves.

The study included 10 men and two women, ranging in age from 45 to 70 years, who had non-insulin-dependent diabetes and a body mass index of more than 25. During 10-minute slots, the participants exercised in the Wii Fit disciplines of boxing, obstacle course and cycling. Training with the game console can lead to results similar to those of traditional physical activity, according to the study results. Combined with other activities, such as walking or cycling, the video-related exercise can strengthen the metabolism of older adults and thus significantly lower the risk of heart disease, the researchers say.

“Due to the small number of participants, generalization of the results is limited,” writes first author Christoph Höchsmann. Larger studies and randomized samples would be necessary to confirm the findings from this study. Because video-related exercise “games” are relatively unknown among older adults, the search for suitable test participants is proving to be difficult, however. “Future exergames might include target group-appropriate game design and game content, in order to raise awareness for this type of physical activity,” say the researchers.