A randomised control trial by Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) revealed that gamified step exercises conducted at home effectively reduced falls in individuals aged over 65, cutting the incidence by 26% compared to a control group.
Falls are a significant health concern for this age group, often leading to mobility-related disability and a loss of independence. With one in three people over 65 experiencing falls annually, scalable prevention strategies are crucial. The study, led by Dr Daina Sturnieks, used the smart±step exergaming console, requiring participants to engage in balance-challenging exercises for 120 minutes weekly over 12 months. The results, published in Nature Medicine, demonstrated a 26% decrease in falls.
Traditional balance exercises are known to prevent falls, but adherence is often hindered by boredom.
Gamification addressed this challenge, with smart±step providing a fun and engaging platform for balance exercises.
“Regular balance challenging exercise is effective at preventing falls, so we tried to make exercise fun and easy to do,” says Dr Daina Sturnieks, lead author of the study and Senior Research Scientist at NeuRA and UNSW Sydney.
The console, connected to a TV, involves stepping on a mat to control the game, incorporating both physical and cognitive benefits.
The exergames demand quick thinking and movement, enhancing cognitive function while providing an enjoyable and motivating experience.
The study suggests that gamified exercises not only offer physical benefits but also contribute to cognitive challenges, promoting healthy ageing in a population with a growing risk of falls.
The results of the trial were published in Nature Medicine.