She finished a master in Clinical Psychology in 2003, and obtained a teaching degree in 2004. In 2006 she started her PHD research on “pain experience and distraction in children and adolescents” at Ghent University. She complemented her doctoral degree with the international research training of the ‘Psychology and Health’ institute (The Netherlands).
In 2011 she joined UC Leuven-Limburg (UCLL) (Belgium), where she combines research with lecturing on (health)psychology, communication and research. From 2011-2014 she was the main researcher of the research project ‘Move Towards Health – Exergames’. This research project examined the (exer)game-experience of schoolchildren, and investigated whether playing these exergames could promote physical activity and a healthier lifestyle in these children. From 2014-2016 she was the main researcher of the project ‘Woonzorgcentrum in beweging’. This research project developed two physical activity programs that stimulate physical activity in older persons. One program used exergames, the other program used exercise cards. These programs were evaluated in the context of a long-term care institution. The past year she was the main researcher of the research project “Lokaal Dienstencentrum in beweging”. In this research project physical activity was stimulated in older persons in a community center. The feasibility and effectiveness of two exergame programs was investigated. One program used the exergame program that was previously used in the long term care facility, the other program used customized MIRA exergames.
Commercial and customized exergames improve balance in older persons in a community center: a pilot study.
Introduction: Of all people over 65 years 30-50% fall at least once a year. Regular physical activity can reduce the risk of falling significantly. However, older persons are often inactive, mainly because of a lack of motivation. Previous research has shown that playing exergames, or active video games (AVG) can improve the motivation to perform physical activity. Furthermore, several studies have found a positive influence of exergaming on older people’s balance and cognition. Most exergame studies have used commercial exergames, but these exergames are not tailored to the elderly population. It is hypothesized that customized exergames, which are specifically designed for older persons, might even be more effective.
Method: In this study we tried to increase physical activity in older persons in a community center (N=17, mean age=76 years) by using exergames. We developped two programs: one program uses commercial KINECT exergames (Microsoft), one program uses customized MIRA exergames (MIRA rehab). We selected games that influence fall prevention risk indicators: balance, strength, mobility, flexibility, endurance and cognition. Game selection feedback was given by physiotherapists, and games were pretested by the population. We evaluated the feasibility of both exergame programs and its influence on participants’ balance, their fear of falling and cognition.
Results: Balance improved in both exergame groups. Participants’ attitude towards physical activity also became more positive. Cognition and fear of falling did not improve. No differences were found between commercial and customized exergames.