Children leave hospital fitter and more motivated thanks to computer game project

Young patients at Southampton’s teaching hospitals are feeling fitter and more motivated during rehabilitation – thanks to a games console.

Physiotherapy staff at Southampton General Hospital have incorporated one-hour sessions on the popular Nintendo Wii and are using fitness game Wii Fit to increase youngsters’ interest in keeping up their recovery programmes at home.

“We initially started using the Wii and Wii Fit in small group sessions with patients at our specialist children’s centre, Bursledon House, to present a form of exercise that the patients would enjoy and carry over to using at home,” said physiotherapy technical instructor Kim Pointer.

“The Wii enables our patients to have an element of choice within their sessions but also inspires and motivates them, and the excellent feedback we have received shows its use has increased prolonged interest in recovery once they leave hospital.”

Its introduction proved so positive that it is now widely used during treatment courses for patients suffering from a range of conditions, including severe pain and fatigue, obesity, neurological impairments and cystic fibrosis, where it has even been used on the ward.

As well as working on balance and aerobic exercises for physical improvements, youngsters are urged to challenge themselves by setting goals using a personalised paper-based score chart developed by the department, replacing the Wii Fit’s tough standard option and improving self-belief.

Kim added: “We have found that having our own innovative score chart for each patient individually gives them their own goals to improve; the Wii scoreboard itself is set at a very high level and can be disheartening for patients that don’t make it onto the board, so we had to devise a method that would also benefit our patients psychologically.

“We don’t view the use of the Wii as better than a physiotherapy session, but it can complement other techniques and can be used as a motivational factor within a weekly programme.

Posted on Wednesday 23 February 2011