Physical therapy has come a long way from patients lying on a mat and working on range of motion. Parkinson’s patients who are in physical therapy to regain balance and improve their coordination often use exercises like pedalling a stationary bike. Now, the Global Rehab in San Antonio, Texas have added bowling. Not with lanes and heavy balls but video game bowling. Three times a week, patients at the centre use video bowling to add to their complex muscular workout and have a little fun while doing it. “Our Parkinson’s patients, they tell us it’s boring just to do range of motion exercise. They want something with relevance, like bowling,” says physical therapist Melinda Rodriguez. This generation of mostly senior citizens grew up bowling, they’re good at it and they like it.
With the help from both the Wii and X-Box, patients help improve their balance, walking and posture without even thinking about it. According to Parkinson’s patient Wally Payette,”The beginning of the Wii system and all the electronic gadgets we had more fun and it brought us together as a real close family. We look forward to coming on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.” The benefits of interactive gaming don’t seem to be anecdotal. Research is beginning to document its benefits, and the technology is keeping up with demand. Physical therapists say one of the great benefits of video gaming is that the patients can take their skills home and continue their rehab by playing against family members.