“Providing the population with the means to engage with VR activities to keep them occupied and physically fit could be a promising strategy to minimise the decline in mental and physical wellbeing that has been reported in many instances since the start of the pandemic,” the study concluded.
A systematic review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health examined 15 peer-reviewed studies on the effects of virtual reality.
“Of the 12 articles examining physiological outcomes, eight showed a positive effect on physical fitness, muscle strength, balance, and extremity function,” the review said. “Only four articles examined the effects on psychological outcomes, three showed positive effects such that VR exercise could ease fatigue, tension, and depression and induce calmness and enhance quality of life.”
The review did however note that the 15 studies used “far from ideal” sample sizes and therefore suggested more rigorous studies be performed to confirm the findings.
Adult and geriatric psychiatrist and director of the Brain Health Center, Dr. David A. Merrill told CNET that “exergaming” — exercise gaming — has had a positive effect among older adults at her memory clinic.
“We’re hoping that by having the exergaming experience at the brain gym they’ll take this into real life by increasing activities like gardening, dancing, walking, socializing with friends, or even doing recumbent biking at home while listening to podcasts,” she said. “We’re seeing that exergaming helps people get an appreciation of the potential benefits of healthy lifestyle habits.”
While the research points to a possibility of VR gaming being a great tool for older adults looking to delay dementia, the studies are still ongoing. More rigorous tests still need to be taken. For now, however, the findings are pointing in a healthy direction.
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