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Last Updated: Monday, 25 February 2008, 13:20 GMT
Could the Wii be good for you?
Gamers playing Nintendo Wii (generic)
Stroke victims may soon be as adept at the Wii as these youngsters
Burns victims in a UK hospital are the latest to be exposed to the apparently therapeutic properties of the Nintendo Wii.

So is the evidence stacking up that the sought-after games console is not just fun, but good for us too?

From overweight children to veterans of the Iraq war via elderly care home residents, it seems scarcely a social group can escape the beneficial tentacles of the Wii.

A string of schools in the UK have bought one in the hope that those children who do not enjoy the cold, wet sports field might take up PE if it involves a Wii in the warm indoors.

And in the US, the games console is becoming an increasingly integral part of care for soldiers wounded on duty in Iraq.

Dubbed Wii-habilitation, the games console - in which players can test their skills in tennis, boxing, and golf among others - is seen as an excellent means of improving strength, endurance and co-ordination in those who have sustained serious injuries.

The fact that it is fun is a key part of the cure.

For one, physiotherapy can be extremely mundane: so doctors could now have access to a powerful weapon when they have at their disposal something that people join overnight queues to obtain.

"Motivation is crucial when it comes to successful treatment," says Frances Fitch Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP).

"If you can get a patient excited about something you're halfway there."

Brain fun

And indeed for stroke victims, the fact that the user actually derives pleasure from the treatment is in part what helps the brain to recover, some specialists say.

We would like to move on to a few more games - we've just got the basics at the moment - and we're thinking of having a competition with children from the village to spice things up a bit
Dan Y Bryn care home

Physiotherapy helps the brains of stroke victims remember how to move their limbs.

Undamaged nerve cells are found to create new pathways for messages to the limbs, and in several US clinics and in Germany the Wii has been used - with apparently some success - to help the brain relearn this mechanism.

However, whether the novelty lasts - and the Wii remains fun day-in, day-out, remains to be seen.

At the Dan Y Bryn care home in Pontardawe, Wales, elderly residents last month took delivery of their very own console. The brainchild of the local council, it is hoped the Wii will keep them physically and mentally alert.

"It's gone down very well - many people have got a lot of enjoyment out of it," says a member of staff at the home.

"But we would like to move on to a few more games - we've just got the basics at the moment - and we're thinking of having a competition with children from the village to spice things up a bit."

Warm up, cool down

The wonders of the Wii when it comes to weight loss have also been the subject of some debate.

Wii warm-up
Roll shoulders 10X
Circle your hips
Clench buttocks 10X
Pull in stomach 10X
Clench and open fist 10X

While some hope it may provide the much coveted cure for childhood obesity, one recent British study suggested that those who played the console only burned marginally more calories than those who used more conventional, sedentary ones.

Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University found Wii players used around 60 calories more per hour - about half a piece of thick-sliced toast.

But while four hours at your Wii may give you license to consume a chocolate bar without fear of piling on the pounds, you may suffer other consequences.

"Wii-itis" is a condition documented in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine by a Madrid-based doctor, who found he had developed an intense pain in his right shoulder after several hours playing Wii tennis.

So-concerned about the impact that potentially quite demanding Wii workouts can have on the unprepared, physiotherapists at the CSP recently drew up a list of recommended warm-up exercises.

These include clenching and opening your fists ten times, rolling your shoulders, and clenching your buttocks while circling your hips.

Games therapy for burns victims
25 Feb 08 |  Health
Wii boost for care home residents
30 Jan 08 |  South West Wales
Wii consoles used in 'virtual PE'
28 Jan 08 |  Hereford/Worcs
'Wii warm-up' good for surgeons
17 Jan 08 |  Health

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