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Parkinson's and the Wii

Karen Rose who has Parkinson's using the Nintendo Wii
Through our research, we're hearing of more and more people with Parkinson's who find the Nintendo Wii games console of particular benefit to them.

Exercise can help people with Parkinson's to control movements, improve balance and improve their mood.

How does the Wii help people with Parkinson's?

As well as being fun and convenient, the Wii has the ability to help people improve their movement, not just fitness.

We did a short survey of around 100 people with Parkinson's who use the Wii.

Survey findings

Two thirds felt that using the Wii helps them manage their symptoms better.

They also reported:

  • an improvement in their balance, which helps prevent falls that are common with Parkinson's
  • that it's more convenient than going to the gym and some people don't feel confident in that environment
  • that you can track your progress through the exercises, which helps keep you motivated
  • that the social side of using the Wii with family and friends, combined with the adrenaline, really helps improve mood and combat the anxiety and depression that many people with Parkinson's experience

Who does the Wii work best for?

The Wii is interesting because of its ability to improve motor skills, not just fitness.

Different people experience a range of Parkinson's symptoms so it's difficult to say who the Wii works best for.

We will have a better idea of this once our research is complete.

How many people with Parkinson's use the Wii?

We're aware that there are a growing number of people with Parkinson's using the Wii both for exercise and for fun, but we don't have an exact figure.

Can it be used as a tool to measure and keep track of symptoms?

No, the Wii can be used to help people to exercise, to keep them moving and also enjoy themselves with family or friends.

The scores given by the Wii do not not reflect a person's symptoms, only their ability to play that particular game. So it can't tell you how the condition is progressing. And this is a very individual thing.

The Wii should not be considered as a substitution for medication, physiotherapy or other therapies.

It should not be seen as a substitute for regular medical check-ups.

Can you guide people with Parkinson's on how to start using Wii?

There is no formal guide. We suggest that you start off by trying out different games, have fun with family and friends and see what works best for you as an individual. The main thing is to not overdo it and be aware of your own abilities.

If you have Parkinson's and feel you need further guidance you can speak to your physiotherapist, Parkinson's nurse, GP or consultant.

Wii Fit guidelines for people with Parkinson's

The following guidelines have been put together by a physiotherapist for people with Parkinson's using the Wii Fit for exercise. Take a look at these before you get started.

Using the Wii Fit

  • Make sure the Wii Fit board is on a carpet or non-slip surface.
  • Remove shoes to stand on the Wii Fit board.
  • Always use the wrist straps on the controllers.
  • Clear a space around the board so you have room to move your arms and step on and off.
  • Take care when stepping off the board, especially when stepping backwards.
  • Have a chair nearby so you can rest easily.
  • Caution is needed if your balance is unstable; place a high-backed chair at the side or in front of you so you can steady yourself if required.
  • Ensure there is someone else around when you are using the Wii Fit.
  • The weight limit for someone using the the Wii Fit board is 150 kg.

Deep brain stimulation and the Wii

If you have had deep brain stimulation surgery:

  • Avoid placing the Wii power supply adaptor directly over the deep brain stimulation implant site.