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Virtual gym proves a hit!


A virtual gym, with an interactive CardioWall, virtual screens and games consoles such as the Xbox Kinect and Nintendo Wii is being used to help children and teenagers at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

The high-tech gym is for young patients who have been referred to the rehabilitation service by a consultant. It helps them manage complex conditions such as chronic pain, juvenile arthritis, neurological conditions, or recover after orthopaedic and spinal surgery.

Funded through the Trust's Charitable Funds department following a special concert at Dorchester Abbey in 2012, the gym is based in the children's outpatient department at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre (NOC). It is fully equipped with a treadmill, rowing machine, cross trainer and exercise bikes which are all connected to computers.

Each computer is connected to a screen which shows an avatar of the patient exercising; rowing, running etc, whilst the speed of the avatar is controlled by the movement of the patient.

Ross Worsley, Physiotherapist at the NOC, said: "The interactive equipment adds a new dimension to exercising and acts as a distraction for patients who can choose to focus on the screen and what their 'character' is achieving, rather than focusing on any pain, stiffness or fatigue they may feel.

"By making exercise enjoyable and by encouraging patients to participate regularly not only does it help to increase their strength and help them manage their condition, but can also help to increase their confidence levels, which is really important for many young patients."

The parents of 10-year-old patient Emma, who was referred to the service to help strengthen the muscles in her legs, have already started to notice the positive effects that using the gym has had on their daughter.

Emma's mum said: "It's not just helping her to improve physically, but psychologically too. She has definitely been able to see the difference it's making to her. It's really increased her confidence and that in turn has helped her to tackle her condition with more confidence in her own abilities."