Video gaming more than just child's play

University of Pittsburgh researchers say video games as a powerful tool for improving patient health, according to a study just published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

It's not a comprehensive endorsement--the study finds there are too few clinical-level studies on the topic, and some drawbacks to video gaming overall--but video games can substantially improve outcomes in physical therapy (69%), psychological therapy (59%), getting patients more active (42%) and pain management (42%), the study found.

One reason: "Video games particularly may be suited to these applications because they can make potentially monotonous, repetitive tasks more compelling," researchers say.

The study debunked a couple of typical gaming myths--that women don't play video games (40% of players were female), and that older adults don't game (26% were 50 or older).

It's not the first we've heard, though, about gaming helping with PT outcomes. Therapists at Mayo Clinic have found surprisingly positive results using Nintendo's Wii gaming console to improve patients' mobility and more.

Researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada, also found that gaming could improve mobility and activity levels in children with cerebral palsy and improve their overall rehab, according to a story at MedicalNewsToday.com.

Insurers too, including Aetna, are turning to social gaming to get members to make healthier choices and improve their overall condition, according to a story in last month's Wall Street Journal.

On the more dollars-and-cents side, the study certainly highlights a growing market. Blogger Leigh Anderson with Gamasutra.com says gamification in the health space is so hot, it has actually moved beyond the "grant-based, research-based" development and into true product development aimed at commercialization.

To learn more:
- here's the AJPM study
- read the HealthNewsDigest coverage
- check out Gamasutra's article
- see the MedicalNewsToday story

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