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4 Reasons Adults Should Play Video Games

adults should play video games

Video games often get a bad rap, and for many adults, especially parents, the negatives about the games for kids are their violent nature and mind-numbing effects. But not all video games are alike, and according to some research studies, there are some good reasons why adults should play video games. Therefore, here are 4 of those reasons.

4 reasons why adults should play video games

Playing video games is not just for fun, according to a number of studies of the impact of gaming on adults. In fact, pushing those buttons may be a pathway to physical and emotional health. Here’s what the research shows.

[1] Video games support emotional health. Among older adults, those who play video games report higher levels of well-being and emotional health. At least that’s the finding from North Carolina State University when 140 older adults (age 63 and older) talked about their participation in video games.

These older folks are no slackers: 61 percent played video games at least once in a while, and 35 percent enjoyed them at least once a week. The researchers found that older adults who played video games, even if only occasionally, reported higher levels of well-being than those who shunned the games.

In fact, the older adults who did not play video games had higher levels of depression than their game-playing peers. The fun and games aren’t over, as the researchers have decided to study if playing these games can improve the mental health of older adults.

[2] Video games help stroke patients. Several studies have noted that stroke patients who engage in video games have experienced some improvement in motor function. For example, researchers reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association that the use of virtual reality video games among stroke patients resulted in a significant improvement in motor function when compared with other stroke patients who engaged in routine recreational therapy.

Twenty stroke patients were assigned to play recreational games (e.g., cards, block balancing) or Wii tennis and Wii Cooking Mama, which involved arm movement and cooking actions such as peeling, slicing, and cutting. Both groups focused on small and large muscle function. Stroke patients who played video games had significant improvement in motor function associated with speed and grip strength.

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In a subsequent study, researchers reported on the results of 12 studies involving 195 participants. Eleven of the 12 studies showed a significant benefit associated with use of video gaming among stroke patients, including a 20.1 percent improvement in motor function and a 14.7 percent improvement in motor impairment.

According to the study’s lead author, Gustavo Saposnik, MD, MSc, director of the Stroke Outcomes Research Unit at St. Michael’s Hospital, conventional therapy, including occupational therapy and physiotherapy, often offer only “modest and sometimes delayed effects.” However, the authors concluded that video games and virtual reality are “potentially useful technologies that can be combined with conventional rehabilitation for upper arm improvement after stroke.”

[3] Video games help surgeons. Is your surgeon a gamer? Believe it or not, a number of studies have evaluated the impact of video gaming on a surgeon’s skill. In a recent study, surgeons who performed laparoscopic surgery and who played Wii for four weeks had improved in accuracy and in the ability to complete procedures.

In a study from Virginia Commonwealth University, researchers reported that medical residents who played video games for six weeks had better spatial, motor, and visual coordination and improved laparoscopic skills than their peers who used laparoscopic simulators.

[4] Video games help lupus patients. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disorder typically affecting women that is characterized by fatigue. A pilot study explored the effectiveness of video games (Wii Fit system) in women with severe fatigue associated with lupus.

Fifteen sedentary African American women participated in a 30-minute session using Wii Fit three days a week for 10 weeks. Compared with baseline, the women experienced a significant improvement in fatigue, anxiety level, total pain, body weight, and waist circumference. The authors concluded that the “Wii Fit motivates this population to exercise, which leads to alleviation of fatigue and reduced body weight” as well as other benefits.

Violent video games in the hands of children have been shown to promote and nurture aggressive behaviors, although carefully chosen educational games can have benefits. Selected video games in the hands of certain adult populations have demonstrated an ability to help improve physical and emotional well-being, and even job performance.

Adams BJ et al. Comparing video games and laparoscopic simulators in the development of laparoscopic skills in surgical residents. Journal of Surgical Education 2012 Nov-Dec; 69(6): 714-17
Allaire JC et al. Successful aging through digital games: socioemotional differences between older adult gamers and non-gamers. Computers in Human Health 2013; 29(4), 1302-6
Giannotti D et al. Play to become a surgeon: impact of Nintendo Wii training on laparoscopic skills. PLoS ONE 2013; 2013 Feb 27; 8(2): e57372
Saposnik G, Levin M. Virtual reality in stroke rehabilitation: a meta-analysis and implications for clinicians. Stroke 2011 May; 42(5): 1380-86
Saposnik G et al. Effectiveness of virtual reality using Wii gaming technology in stroke rehabilitation: a pilot randomized clinical trial and proof of principle. Stroke 2010 Jul; 41(7): 1477-84
Yuen HK et al. Using Wii Fit to reduce fatigue among African American women with systemic lupus erythematosus: a pilot study. Lupus 2011 Oct; 20(12): 1293-99

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