Patrick J. Skerrett

Virtual reality, exergames may improve mental and physical health

Games are meant to be fun and exciting. Some involve the body, some the mind. Others do both. Because of this engagement, games can also be powerful medicine for an ailing mind or body.

Virtual reality

Early efforts to use games for healing focused on virtual reality—a computer-simulated environment that a person can interact with as if he or she was in the “real” world. A virtual reality approach to fear of flying, for example, would create the feeling of being in an airplane, taking off, cruising, and landing.

According to PubMed, an extraordinary database provided by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, researchers are testing virtual reality to help people with a wide range of mental and physical problems. Here’s a partial list:

  • post-traumatic stress disorder
  • stroke rehabilitation
  • drug and alcohol abuse
  • smoking cessation
  • autism
  • eating disorders and obesity
  • stuttering
  • phobias like fear of speaking in public or fear of open spaces
  • pain relief among burn victims

A presentation at this week’s annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society described various ways that virtual reality can be used in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other clinical settings. MedPageToday reports on the session and offers a video discussion about the use of virtual reality with Dr. Ivana Steigman, chief medical officer for Thrive Research, a company that develops online behavioral health programs.

Exergames

Games may also help people become more physically active. As reported in the March 2012 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter, researchers are taking a close look at games such as Nintendo’s Wii Fitness and Xbox’s Kinect Sports to get couch potatoes moving. The American Heart Association, for example, convened a summit of researchers, clinicians, and game makers to explore the influence that exergames (also called active-play video games) might have on “improving health-related skills, enhancing self-esteem and self-efficacy, promoting social support, and ultimately motivating positive changes in health behaviors.” (You can read the full report here.)

Have you ever tried an exergame or virtual reality therapy? Did it help?

Related Information: Harvard Heart Letter

Comments:

  1. hadi fable

    I agree with you about Games are meant to be fun and exciting. Some involve the body, some the mind. Others do both. Because of this engagement, games can also be powerful medicine for an ailing mind or body.
    This post was very nicely written, I enjoyed your distinguished way of writing this post.

  2. mohamed

    instead it is a programmable solution to rewire the mind. In the military, the purpose of boot camp is to rewire the mind of course train for combat as well as other skills. The SEALS I know use methods that force the mind to rethink and adapt to another way of thinking in order to strengthen the individual for the more strenuous situations that arise. Somehow, many in our society still find it necessary to go to a psychiatrist or something for assistance when in most cases as it is listed above, we can reprogram the mind to think differently, overcome, adapt, and achieve. I personally enjoy affirmations which are not video games of course but the purpose is relatively to do the similar result. Awake2000 has a device that allows self programming with automatic playback that is ideal. It is not in a virtual setting, but instead while you sleep. However the results are very much the same. I think if someone designed a video game that was affirmation related

  3. Ben Vlaunt

    This is great combining exercise and video game as well.

  4. Markus

    I read that one influential besmnussien recently told the MBA students at an Ivy League school basically that the MBA is worthless.In reality, if you’re going to be successful in business, you don’t need a college degree to be successful and you’re actually better off saving your money so that you have more capital to invest in your business (if you can afford to go to Harvard, you can definitely afford a better investment such as starting your own business). However, most people go to college because they want to waste 4 years getting drunk and sleeping around at parental expense (it in fact, isn’t a wise investment in most circumstances).References :

  5. Parkett

    This post was very nicely written, and it also contains many useful facts. I enjoyed your distinguished way of writing this post. Thanks, you have made it very easy for me to understand.

    Parkett

  6. Herbert

    With moderation – why not!

  7. health programs

    Health is now so much costly , to make easy the basic helath facilities for the peoples ,Health Program harnesses advances in science and technology to save lives in poor countries.

  8. Caitlyn

    Thank you for your interest in exergaming. As you know, obesity is on the rise in America and it is important that everyone is educated about the benefits of frequent exercise. Because it is a relatively new concept, exergaming needs publicity and research to reach its full potential and be as useful as possible in the struggle to help America become healthier. Your time, effort, and findings are greatly appreciated and will likely serve to improve exergaming as a whole.
    Motion Fitness is a leader in exergaming, active games, and interactive fitness. Our products go beyond what is sold at retail stores and branch out to the commercial market. Our state-of-the art equipment is used in fitness centers, nonprofits, and schools across the country. We pride ourselves in the way we use technology to keep America active.
    If you would like to follow up or have any questions, feel free to contact us or visit our website. We look forward to hearing from you and good luck with future writing and research.

  9. John

    Exercise are really are great way to maintain perfect healthy in a fast world .More or the less people are still reluctant to do exercise which consumes half hour .Due to that people fall to life style diseases and other diseases which may eat up their good life.Good and healthy diet , exercise which can keep the body fit and some clean habits can help the life to be more healthier.

    • Emine

      I currently use wii fit and love it as it awlols me to exercise when ever I have the time, even late in the evenings (and no waiting for exercise machines at the gym.) I love the idea of the kickboxing in EA active, as this is a great form of exercise.I have been eagerly awaiting this releases since end of 2007.

  10. Valerie Hilke

    I have seen some games that work along the same similar fashion as what you spoke of. I think that it is a wise filed to be exploring and certainly venturing into. However, there are still so many people in our society that seem to shy away from the use of this type of technology when in fact it can help. It is not just playing a video game or nonsense in my beliefs, instead it is a programmable solution to rewire the mind. In the military, the purpose of boot camp is to rewire the mind of course train for combat as well as other skills. The SEALS I know use methods that force the mind to rethink and adapt to another way of thinking in order to strengthen the individual for the more strenuous situations that arise. Somehow, many in our society still find it necessary to go to a psychiatrist or something for assistance when in most cases as it is listed above, we can reprogram the mind to think differently, overcome, adapt, and achieve. I personally enjoy affirmations which are not video games of course but the purpose is relatively to do the similar result. Awake2000 has a device that allows self programming with automatic playback that is ideal. It is not in a virtual setting, but instead while you sleep. However the results are very much the same. I think if someone designed a video game that was affirmation related and could put me in my own virtual world, I’d be the first one in line!!

  11. Capt Tom Bunn LCSW

    Though Systematic Desensitization is a highly effective treatment for some phobias, it cannot be applied to flight phobia. Exposure to actual flight cannot be adequately adjusted. Exposure cannot be started at a level low enough level, nor increased gradually enough, to produce desensitization.

    Simulated flight using computer-generated images can be adjusted. But since treatment takes place in an office, simulated flight offers no exposure – and thus provides no desensitization – to the aspects of flight that anxious fliers find most challenging: the risk of disaster, the loss of control, and the inability to escape. Despite elaborate claim of success, research has shown that anxious fliers exposed to simulated flight were no better able to fly than those exposed to sitting on a parked airplane.

    The original research was done here in CT and I was involved. It was a failure, but that didn’t stop the people who promote it from spinning the research to make it look like a success. They claimed the control group was a “traditional fear of flying program”. And thus, VRET which performed the same as the control group was a convenient alternative to a traditional fear of flying program.

    It was in no way a traditional fear of flying program, three days of learning how flying works, relaxation exercises, and an actual flight.