With advancing technology, exercise video games, called "exergames," have been improving and are now widely used by the general public. Recent studies have shown that exergames as well positively affect people suffering from depression.
Exercise provides relief from depressive symptoms
There have been many studies establishing the effect exercise has on depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, physically, exercise eases depression by releasing endorphins and other "feel-good brain chemicals," and it increases body temperature, which is sometimes shown to have a calming effect. The increase of oxygen flowing through the body during physical activity is largely credited with having a significant antidepressant effect.
Mentally, exercise increases confidence and serves as a distraction. Distractions are useful to those with depression, especially when it is spurred by worries in their life. Exercise also offers a healthy coping mechanism, as opposed to harmful or risky behavior like dwelling on the depressing feelings or turning to alcohol.
There is also a noted difference between physical activity and exercise. Physical activity involves some kind of energy consumption or muscle contraction, while exercise is a structured, repetitive workout targeting certain areas of the body. Both are very beneficial to mental state, but exercise is more effective.
Exergames alleviate depression in adults, especially in older adults
In a compilation of studies, called a meta-analysis, conducted by Jinhui Li, Yin-Leng Theng, and Schubert Foo, researchers found that overall, playing exercised-based video games, or "exergames," greatly affected participants suffering from depression. Examples of these exergames include WiiSports and WiiFit, Pokemon GO, and Zombies, Run!. The meta-analysis covered numerous studies testing the effects of exergames, as well as the different kinds of games on different age groups.
The results largely supported the positive effect exergames have on people suffering from depression. In one covered study, exergames with a high playfulness level (those that feel more like video games than exercise) were shown to be more effective than those with a low playfulness level. In a game with high playfulness, participants were more motivated, as well as benefiting from improved mental and emotional functioning.
Though like most video games, exergames are made with younger generations in mind, the meta-analysis conveyed older adults were most affected. This may have to do with the type of depression usually affecting older adults over general adults. Young and mid-age adults generally develop depression due to hardship in their life, like trouble at work or in a relationship. For older adults, the cause is usually illness or social isolation. An exercise video game leaves them looking forward to something fun to do or something to do with others, easing the pain.
Findings can be applied to health professions to better treat patients
These results can be used to improve treatment of depression. The elderly generally have trouble exercising due to declining to declining joints and lungs. As the study showed that older adults were greatly affected, exergames, as a controlled, safer environment, can be used instead of other forms of aerobic exercise.
As the graph shows, adolescents enjoyed playing the Wii games the most out of all the represented age groups. Children and adolescents often find regular exercise, like using a treadmill boring and refuse. Making it fun for children, especially those suffering from depression, may encourage them to exercise more, providing them with much-needed relief.
There is already a standing connection between exercise and depression management, and exergames could serve as a kind of preventative care for people who don't already have depression. Regardless of your mental state, the endorphins your brain releases during exercise make you happier. Depression is at its center clinical, but having a generally happy mentality could stave off its real-life triggers.
Depression can affect anyone
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, clinical depression, otherwise known as major depressive disorder, is a common and serious disorder. It is known to constantly interfere with feelings, daily life and activities, and how an individual is able to handle basic needs. Both young children and older adults are commonly affected by depression.
As seen in nearly every study, depression does not discriminate based on age, ethnicity, gender, or any other factor, though some are at more risk than others. There are many different forms of depression, with different symptoms and intensities. This is why it is important to have effective and readily available treatment that is known to generate positive feelings and provide some kind of relief to what can be an unbearable illness.