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Impact of exergames on psychiatric symptoms in older adults with serious mental illness


Objectives: Older adults with serious mental illness (SMI) are more likely to have high body mass index (BMI) and chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. A sedentary lifestyle which may be attributed to pharmacologic side effects and the symptoms of mental illness, has been difficult to treat. Patients experiencing negative symptoms (e.g., apathy, anhedonia) may be more likely to exercise in a group setting with activities that are designed to stimulate the mind and encourage engagement. “Exergames” or exercise-based videogames, are an interactive and stimulating method to provide aerobic activities. Exercise has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of depression. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the impact of exergames on depressive and negative symptoms in older adults with SMI. Materials and Methods: A single-group pretest posttest study was conducted with 52 older adults diagnosed with SMI. Participants engaged in group exergame activities for 50-minute sessions three times a week for 10 weeks. The Patient Reported Outcome Measurement Information System or PROMIS, and the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms or SANS, were conducted at enrollment, 5 weeks, and 10 weeks. Results: Participants achieved statistically significant reductions in self-reported depressive symptoms (-0.83, LL -1.46, UL -0.12) and observed negative symptoms (-5.29, LL -7.64, UL -2.94) over a 10-week period. Conclusions: Our results suggest utilization of exergames as an adjunct treatment can be an effective, engaging, and cost-efficient method to reducing depressive and negative symptoms in older adults with SMI. Future studies should evaluate exergame effects with a larger sample.

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