Video games are proving to be a fun and effective way of improving the lives of people living with a variety of conditions.

In a recent American study, youngsters with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experienced improved balance after playing a specially designed video game. Led by a team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the project examined how the platform faired as a tool to help ASD sufferers deal with their balance and posture issues.

“We think this video game-based training could be a unique way to help individuals with ASD who have challenges with their balance address these issues,” explained Brittany Travers, an investigator at UW-Madison’s Waisman Center and an assistant professor of kinesiology. “Players see themselves on the screen doing different ‘ninja’ poses and postures, and they are rewarded for doing those poses and postures; that’s how they advance in the game.”

A Microsoft Kinect camera and a Nintendo Wii balance board were used in the study, which showed that – after six weeks – the 29 participants, aged 7 to 17, had better ‘balance and posture outside of the game environment’.

Travers said the team now aim to ‘move this video game-based training outside the lab’.

Using gaming platforms is increasingly common within healthcare scenarios. Earlier this week Innovators Magazine reported the successful work carried out in this area by researchers from Imperial College London, who have developed a game that can help rehabilitate people who have suffered from conditions including strokes.