The study cites two primary benefits from this style of therapy. The first stems from the entertainment value. Exercise always becomes more enjoyable when your favorite dinosaur or superhero is along for the ride. The second comes from the almost limitless range of movements made possible by the almost limitless selection of games. Need full body motion? Then opt for the Kinect where your body is the controller via the stereo camera attachment. How about wrist or arm targeted therapy? Then motion controller systems like the Wii & Move will play a larger role.

The specific style of therapy utilized in the study came from a combination of Wii Boxing and children with hemiplegia (a form of CP that predominately affects only one side of the body). Since the game requires, and subsequently rewards, the player to use both hands, the typically underused side is exposed to higher than average activity.

On the negative side of things, this should not be considered a direct replacement for standard physical therapy. Keep in mind doctors design rehabilitation therapy for rehabilitation; video game designers aim for fun and playability. You also need to keep a watchful eye to make sure the preferred therapy motion continues and is not replaced by a simple hand gesture. Controller technology is still relatively new and can be tricked from simpler motions.

Lead researcher Dr. Elaine Biddiss says, “Future development and optimization of AVG technologies may usher in a new age in physical rehabilitation where virtual environments provide an arena for neuroplastic change in the comfort of one’s home.”

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