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Health Center Today, May 26, 2011

Wii Workout Can Help COPD Patients Breathe Easier

By Carolyn Pennington

Photo of Wii remote and NunchukUConn Health Center researchers have found that Nintendo’s Wii Fit video game offers patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) an effective workout – and because it’s more enjoyable, they are more likely to use.

“Our study showed that COPD patients exercised at a relatively high percent of their maximum during three to five minutes of specified Wii Fit exercises, indicating the Wii Fit may be a reasonable home-based exercise regimen for COPD patients,” said Dr. Jeffrey Albores, internal medicine resident.

Regular exercise helps COPD patients by increasing overall muscle tone and improving cardiopulmonary fitness. But getting COPD patients to exercise on a regular basis at their homes can sometimes be a difficult proposition, especially when tolerance for physical activity may be limited.

Albores and his fellow researchers recruited five patients with stable COPD. Prior to exercising with the Wii Fit video game, a standard walking test was performed to determine each patient’s maximal workload and heart rate, oxygen consumption and respiratory factors were measured.

Patients were then asked to perform four specified exercises from the Wii Fit program: running in place, upper arm exercises, stepping in place and obstacle course. Each exercise was performed for three to five minutes and then the patients were tested again.

At the end of the exercise routine, heart rate was at 71 percent of the maximum predicted value. Oxygen consumption was at 86 percent of the maximum predicted for the patients.

Researchers say maximum predicted values reflect the absolute upper limit of what a patient can achieve through exercise and is based on health, age, and other factors.

Most exercise programs aim to achieve between 60 percent and 80 percent of maximum values to be safe and effective.

“The video game system will provide COPD patients an adjunct to pulmonary rehabilitation by performing these interactive activity-promoting video game exercises in the home setting,” Albores says. “However, further studies are necessary to determine safety, adherence, and effectiveness of the Wii Fit exercises in COPD patients.”