The Positive Effects of Exergaming on Dementia

Dementia is the deficiency of mental abilities that influences an individual's everyday existence. People with dementia exhibit a group of symptoms, including memory loss, spatial and visual ability deterioration, disorientation, confusion, difficulty or inability to communicate, etc. 

Dementia might lead to psychological changes like hallucinations, anxiety, depression, paranoia and personality shifts. Ageing, Down Syndrome and family history are the most crucial risk factors contributing to dementia. 

Some of the possible ways to control the risk factors of dementia are as follows: 

  • A healthy diet and good-quality sleep 
  • Maintaining cardiovascular health 
  • Controlling sugar levels. 
  • Avoiding unhealthy lifestyle choices, including smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and eating unhealthy food
  • Social interaction and physical activity
  • Activities that keep the mind active.

Currently, no treatment or medicines are available to treat dementia completely. All medicines, treatments and palliative care can only slow down dementia to a certain extent and enhance an individual's mental functioning. 

What Is Exergaming?

Exergaming is a creative form of exercise combining physical activity and cognitive function in a gaming environment. The principle involved in exergaming is the technology that tracks and monitors the individual's body movements. These body movements fed back into the game affect the course of the game displayed on the screen. Exergaming is, therefore, an innovative approach to motivate individuals to be physically more active. 

Exergames are suitable in all environments like houses, gyms, recreation areas and daycare settings. One can perform exergaming as a group activity or as an individual. The connection between physical activity and the digital game prompts both physical fitness and cognitive functioning. 

Exergaming and Dementia

So what is the relevance of exergaming for people with dementia?

Exergaming might assist people living with dementia to conquer boundaries to mental impairment and physical activity. Exergaming works on naturally motivating the individual with dementia to participate in body movement activities voluntarily. These digital games can also be tailored to the explicit requirements of dementia patients to add to their conviction that they can perform the activity with no challenges. 

The positive benefits of exergaming in people living with dementia are as follows: 

  • a. Enhanced Perceived Behavioral Control

  • People with dementia face extreme difficulty with motor functions and coordination, making them physically inactive. Physical inactivity in dementia patients is unique because of their severe neuropsychiatric symptoms and apathy. Research investigating the link between physical activity and dementia symptoms, revealed a positive correlation. This means that patients with relatively low physical activity showed psychopathological symptoms of high severity. To be precise, researchers discovered physical inactivity as one of the features of dementia disorder. Hence, caregivers and therapy providers should pay attention to minimising physical inactivity in dementia patients. 

    However, whilst preventing physical inactivity is crucial in aiding dementia patients, it is also a daunting task. This is because dementia patients exhibit apathy or lack of interest in exercise or body movements. 

    Exergaming is perceived as a novel approach to motivate dementia patients to overcome barriers to physical activity. This gaming therapy positively influences the ability of an individual to perform physical activities, such as running, cycling and dancing. Exergaming improves the attitude or interest toward exercise in dementia patients. These patients experience fewer coordination obstacles with exergaming, which enhances their perceived behavioral control. Enhanced behavioral control, in turn, strengthens an individual's will and interest in performing physical activities. 

  • b. Social Behavior 

  • Social interaction is a massive challenge for people suffering from dementia. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health revealed that social interaction or activity delays memory loss. Therefore, socialising is a great mental exercise, especially for dementia patients. 

    Dementia patients face difficulty in communication due to confusion, so they lack speech clarity. Helping them to become socially more active is also a tedious task for caregivers and therapists. To this end, exergaming can help. One can do exergaming as an individual or in a group, and it  shows slight to moderate beneficial effects on social interaction in dementia patients. 

  • c. Cognitive Enrichment or Enhancement

  • The decline in cognitive function is one of the characteristic features of dementia that usually involves more than one cognitive domain. Memory, language, judgement, thinking and behavior are the most commonly affected cognitive domains in people with dementia. This cognitive deterioration is progressive and ranges from mild to severe. 

    A systematic review was done to review the studies on exergaming interventions administered to elderly people with mild cognitive impairment and dementia. They found out that 7 out of 10 studies found consistent evidence showing statistically significant effects of exergaming on cognitive functioning in people with mild cognitive impairment and dementia. 

    Exergaming not only aids in preventing cognitive decline but also positively affects cognitive functions, such as working memory, language, clarity of speech, etc. 

    Lusio Rehab: Helping Improve Health Outcomes Through Technology

    Exergaming is a gaming therapy that can enhance cognitive functioning, social behavior and physical activity in patients with dementia. Although the effectiveness of exergaming is not yet proven in larger studies, many researchers consider it as a promising technology to help dementia patients lead a better quality of life. 

    Different exergaming applications, such as LusioMATE, are available to help dementia patients engage in physical activity.  LusioMATE is a physical therapy ecosystem that motivates movement goals with the help of a digital game and consequently increases the rate of adherence to physical activity in dementia patients. 

    Contact us today to know more details about LusioMATE.


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