Research Article: Videogame-based Pilot in Older Adults with Schizophrenia

A recent research article published in Frontiers in Psychiatry highlights the impact of a videogame-based pilot physical activity program in older adults with schizophrenia on subjectively and objectively measured physical activity. UCSF School of Nursing individuals contributing to the piece include: Heather Leutwyler, RN, PhD, NP; Bruce Cooper, PhDGlenna Dowling, RN, PhD, FAAN; and Erin Hubbard, Clinical Research Coordinator. The results of the pilot study suggest that the participants' perception of physical activity intensity differs from the intensity objectively captured with a physical activity monitor.

Methods and Progress

The report describes the impact of a videogame-based pilot physical activity program using the Kinect for Xbox 360 game system on physical activity in older adults with schizophrenia. After twenty participants played an active videogame for thirty minutes, once a week for six weeks, physical activity was measured by self-report with the Yale Physical Survey and objectively with the Sensewear Pro armband at both the start and end of the program. Though there was a significant increase in frequency of self-reported vigorous physical activity, the study did not detect a statistically significant difference in objectively measured physical activity.

Silhouette in front of TV screen monitor

Background for Research

As part of the premise for the study, older adults with schizophrenia usually lead a rather sedentary lifestyle. It is well known that prolonged sedentary activity is related to disparate negative health outcomes including poor physical fitness. The negative impact of sedentary activity is problematic for any older person, but is especially burdensome for older adults with schizophrenia. In another study, it was discovered that "people with schizophrenia have a higher mortality rate than the general population and sedentary behavior contributes to this mortality gap" (Daumit et al., 2005; Druss, Zhao, Von Esenwein, Morrato, & Marcus, 2011). Short activity intervals could positively influence physical and mental health.

Ability of Videogames to Promote Physical Activity

However, few interventions currently exist to bring these needed physical activity programs to decrease sedentary time in older adults with schizophrenia. Several of the UCSF School of Nursing researchers authoring the report have also conducted studies that determine "videogame based exercise may be one way to promote physical activity in this vulnerable population" (Leutwyler, H., Hubbard, E., and Dowling, G., 2014; Leutwyler, H. Hubbard, E. Vinogradov, S., and Dowling, G., 2012). Additionally, "videogames with an interface that requires physical exertion to play, such as the Kinect for Xbox 360 game system, promote physical activity" (Leutwyler,H., Hubbard, E., Vinogradov, S., and Dowling, G., 2012; Maillot, Perrot, & Hartley, 2012). Participants in the study used their body to control the game with the Kinect’s full-body tracking sensor system, which recognizes the participant’s body and mirrors those movements in the game. The report illuminates that as the study's participants became more involved and successful with active videogames, they developed skills that made it easier to engage in activity.

Read the full study report for more detail on methods, participants, settings, procedures, and results.