Research at the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine suggests a novel route to improving the symptoms of mild depression, known as subsyndromal depression or SSD, in seniors through the regular use of entertaining video games that combine game play with exercise, or "exergames." In a pilot study led by Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Distinguished Professor of psychiatry and neurosciences at UCSD School of Medicine, Estelle and Edgar Levi Chair in Aging, and director of the Institute, the researchers found that use of exergames significantly improved mood and mental health-related quality of life in older adults with SSD.
"The study suggests encouraging results from the use of the exergames," Jeste said. "More than one-third of the participants had a 50-percent or greater reduction of depressive symptoms. Many had a significant improvement in their mental health-related quality of life and increased cognitive stimulation." Jeste said feedback revealed some participants started the study feeling nervous about how they would perform in the exergames and the technical aspects of game play. However, by the end of the study, most participants reported that learning and playing the videogames was satisfying and enjoyable. "The participants thought the exergames were fun, they felt challenged to do better and saw progress in their game play," Jeste said. "Having a high level of enjoyment and satisfaction, and a choice among activities, exergames may lead to sustained exercise in older adults." He cautioned, however, that the findings were based on a small study and needed to be replicated in larger samples using control groups. He also stressed that exergames carry potential risks of injury and should be practiced with appropriate care.
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