Wii-Fit Can Improve Balance And Confidence In Older Adults

warrior pose

By Sara Thompson, M.Sc. in Exercise Science

Aging adults are more prone to falling, leading to a higher risk of fractures and disability.

This can cause a lack of confident to perform physical activity and activities of daily living. Increased risk of falls are due to a number of factors that are associated with aging, such as decreased muscle mass, decreased bone mass, and impaired balance. Balance and gait problems are the best predictors for fall risk (Ganz et al., 2007) and previous studies have shown that exercise can improve balance (Howe et al., 2011).

However many aging adults lead an inactive lifestyle, partly due to decreased confidence and fear of falling. Therefore, an exercise program that is both safe and fun is needed for this population.


exercise“Exergames” are an up and coming mode of exercise that use video games to promote physically activity in a fun, safe environment. Individuals’ weight is measured on a balance board and movement is tracked through motion sensors. Pilot studies have shown that Exergames are a safe and feasible tool for the aging population (Williams et al., 2011), however the efficacy has not been determined. Padala and colleagues aimed to test the effectiveness of a Nintendo Wii-Fit® exergame program in older individuals who have problems with balance (Padala et al., 2017).

Related Article: The Top 3 Tips To Improve Your Balance

The Study

In this pilot study, thirty older adults over the age of 60 were recruited for the study. Individuals were included if they had mild to moderate balance problems.

The participants were randomly divided into two groups:

  1. Wii-Fit exercise group

  2. Control group

Participants in the Wii-Fit group performed 45 minutes of exercise 3 times per week for 8 weeks. The Nintendo Wii-Fit® program was chosen because it incorporates aerobic, strength, and balance training into its exercise programs.

Specifically, there are five training categories:

  1. Yoga

  2. Strength training

  3. Aerobics

  4. Balance games

  5. Training plus (more complex exercise tasks such as obstacle courses)

*To make the training more realistic, participants were allowed to choose which exercises to engage in.

However, they were encouraged to choose at least one exercise from each category during each session. The control group’s training schedule was identical to the Wii-Fit group, however their exercises consisted of 5 categories of cognitive tasks:

  1. Memory

  2. Language

  3. Attention

  4. Executive function

  5. Visual and spatial domain

The Findings

The primary outcome measure was performance during the Berg Balance Scale (BBS), a measure of static and dynamic stability. Participants in the Wii-Fit group improved their balance scores after 4 and 8 weeks, however participants in the control group did not.

The second purpose of the study was to determine how Wii-Fit affects fear of falling, exercise enjoyment and quality of life. The Activities-Specific Balance Confidence (ABC) scale is a measure of confidence regarding balance and fear of falling. The Wii-Fit exercise group significantly improved their score in the ABC scale after 8 weeks.

Participants also reported improved exercise enjoyment following the 8 weeks, with 83% of participants giving Wii-Fit a “high” pleasure ranking. Finally, a significant improvement in physical quality of life was measured after 4 weeks in Wii-Fit group.


This study is the first to demonstrate that Exergames can improve measures of balance in the aging population.

There were no adverse events throughout the study and there was high adherence, suggesting that this is a safe and fun mode of physical activity for the aging population. While other forms of exercise are still encouraged, this could be a feasible way for individuals nervous to perform physical activity to gain confidence in their own home.

As we live in a technological age, this is one way to use technology to our advantage. Even more, this is an activity that older adults can perform with their kids and grandkids!

Related Article: A Fun Alternative: Trampoline Workouts

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Ganz, D. A., Bao, Y., Shekelle, P. G., & Rubenstein, L. Z. (2007). Will my patient fall? JAMA, 297(1), 77–86.

Howe, T. E., Rochester, L., Jackson, A., Banks, P. M. & Blair, V. A. (2011). Exercise for improving balance in older people. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, no. 4, Article ID CD004963.

Williams, B., Doherty, N. L., Bender, A., Mattox, H. &  Tibbs, J. R. (2011). The effect of nintendo wii on balance: a pilot study supporting the use of the wii in occupational therapy for the well elderly. Occupational Therapy in Health Care, 25(2-3), 131–139.

Padala, K. P., Padala, P. R., Lensing, S. Y., Dennis, R. A., Bopp, M. M., et al. (2017).

Efficacy of Wii-Fit on Static and Dynamic Balance in Community Dwelling Older Veterans: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial. Journal of Aging Research, Feb 5 [Epub ahead of print].

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