SJSU in the News: Is Wii Good For You? An SJSU Grad Student Investigates

San Jose State kinesiology student looks into benefits of Nintendo’s Wii Fit

Originally published by the San Jose Mercury News Sept. 29, 2011

By Matt Wilson

A San Jose State graduate student is inviting older residents with free time and an appetite for exercise to come over and play some video games. Kinesiology student Ramonda Collins is asking people ages 60 to 80 to participate in a study to see if playing the Nintendo video game Wii Fit will improve their balance.

Collins chose this research as part of her culminating master’s thesis project. A high score in a video games, however, is not what Collins is after. Measurements for balance improvement is not taken from the game, but from the Berg Balance Scale, an industry standard balance measuring device.

“The main goal is to see if they can improve their balance while on the Berg,” Collins says.

Some studies have already been done using the game, but the sample sizes were not large enough to be of conclusive interest, Collins says.

“The goal for my study is [to] use a larger sample size and see if the Wii Fit does help improve balance over a two-month period,” she says.

Wii Fit is a video game developed by Nintendo in 2009. The game’s hook is that it emphasizes actual exercise activities using a balance board that interacts with the game in real time. More than 20 million copies have been sold to date.

The Nintendo Wii system differs from previous generations of video game systems in that it is able to link players’ body movements with games. For many of Collins’ participants, this is their first experience with a video game that’s more advanced than one using a single-button joystick. Collins has also heard a lot of her participants mention how this is their first experience with a video game outside of watching their own children or grandchildren play.Collins has up to four Wii systems operating at once, so multiple participants can play in groups or individually. She recommends that prospective participants join the research with a friend or spouse. The games lend themselves to direct competition.

“It’s a really good time, and some of the balance games spark competition,” she says. “They seem to be having a great time while they are playing, and they are enjoying themselves. The feedback I got has been positive, and there has been a lot of laughing and fun while they’re competing.”

Collins evaluates potential participants to make sure they’re in good enough shape. Certain medications and recent major surgeries or hip replacements could quickly disqualify a candidate.

Studies are conducted Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 7 a.m. to noon or Wednesday and Friday afternoons from noon to 3 p.m. The participant chooses the days and times that they are available. On average, a session is about 40 to 45 minutes long.

Research will continue into the fall and participants must sign on for eight weeks total in order for the research to be of use. Collins’ goal is to have at least 40 participants by the end of October.

As an extra incentive to participate, Collins is raffling one Wii system and a 22-inch television to one of her participants at the conclusion of the study. The system includes a Wii console, remotes and games.

Originally from Fairfield, Collins studied health sciences at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She has been studying kinesiology and motor development at San Jose State for the past four years. She currently works and does her Wii Fit research at B.E.S.T. Physical Therapy on S. De Anza Boulevard in Cupertino.

Anyone interested in being a participant in the Wii Fit study can email Ramonda Collins at WiiFitBalanceStudy@gmail.com or call 408.257.2225 for more information.