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Computer games latest weapon in fight against PD

sheryl playing the xbox

My favorite Kinect Sports are bowling, boxing, and ping pong. I work up quite a sweat as I put away one opponent after another. I recently bought "Michael Phelps: Push the Limit" so I could refine my swimming strokes without having to go into the water or even suit up. It also gives me a chance to experience competitive swimming maneuvers, like diving into a pool from a starting block, and making and timing turns. The better my form, the faster I go.

One of my favorite features of many of the Kinect games is my ability to control crowd reaction. Who isn’t motivated by a cheering crowd that gets louder as you pump your fists in the air? I joined in a bit too vigorously and jostled four stones out of my new ring. Fortunately it happened in a confined area in my house and my husband was able to crawl around until he found them all.

crowd cheering

 

by Sheryl Jedlinski  

If Parkinson’s disease is negatively impacting your gait and balance and keeping you from doing the things you enjoy, you may want to try playing computer-based motion tracking games. We are not talking Atari running vintage Pac Man and Frogger.  You cannot lie on a couch or sit in a chair and push buttons on a controller. We are talking cutting edge video game technology where you are the controller, using simple voice commands, hand gestures, and whole body movements to guide the action and mimick the motions that go into performing real activities.

Researchers see computer games as the newest weapon in the fight against PD symptoms. In a study involving 20 people with moderate PD, more than half showed some improvement in walking speed, balance, and stride length after playing custom designed physical therapy games three times a week for 12 weeks. Running on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Kinect, these experimental games elicit specific scientifically tested movements that address immobility and functional problems. The games can be custom-programmed to provide an appropriate challenge for each player. A larger, long term clinical trial is necessary to confirm these initial findings.

Knowing how much my almost daily usage of the Wii and Wii Fit gaming technology has helped me over the past several years, I am confident that the newer and more advanced Kinect will help me realize even better results when it comes to balance, range of motion, flexibility, and endurance. What’s nice is that Kinect is so appealing, even my healthy friends enjoy coming over to challenge me in various sports and games. They get so carried away trying to beat me, that they have knocked down track lights while bowling in the tenth frame.

Some games, like Fruit Ninja, are just plain fun for all ages. Fruit in all shapes and sizes randomly launch up out of the ground, and we “Ninjas” must use our bare hands to slash them, while avoiding bombs that are mixed in. As you advance, the fruit comes at you faster and in clumps, exploding in a burst of color.  You are left flailing about looking like the world's worst traffic cop.

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