Background: Older adults show increased risk of falling and major risk factors include impaired lower extremity muscle strength and postural balance. However, the potential positive effect of biofeedback-based Nintendo Wii training on muscle strength and postural balance in older adults is unknown.
Methods: This randomized controlled trial examined postural balance and muscle strength in community-dwelling older adults (75±6 years) pre- and post-10 weeks of biofeedback-based Nintendo Wii training (WII, n = 28) or daily use of ethylene vinyl acetate copolymer insoles (controls [CON], n = 30). Primary end points were maximal muscle strength (maximal voluntary contraction) and center of pressure velocity moment during bilateral static stance.
Results: Intention-to-treat analysis with adjustment for age, sex, and baseline level showed that the WII group had higher maximal voluntary contraction strength (18%) than the control group at follow up (between-group difference = 269 N, 95% CI = 122; 416, and p = .001). In contrast, the center of pressure velocity moment did not differ (1%) between WII and CON at follow-up (between-group difference = 0.23 mm(2)/s, 95% CI = -4.1; 4.6, and p = .92). For secondary end points, pre-to-post changes favoring the WII group were evident in the rate of force development (p = .03), Timed Up and Go test (p = .01), short Falls Efficacy Scale-International (p = .03), and 30-second repeated Chair Stand Test (p = .01). Finally, participants rated the Wii training highly motivating at 5 and 10 weeks into the intervention.
Conclusions: Biofeedback-based Wii training led to marked improvements in maximal leg muscle strength (maximal voluntary contraction; rate of force development) and overall functional performance in community-dwelling older adults. Unexpectedly, static bilateral postural balance remained unaltered with Wii training. The high level of participant motivation suggests that biofeedback-based Wii exercise may ensure a high degree of compliance to home- and/or community-based training in community-dwelling older adults.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01371253.