PIONEERING research carried out in Bournemouth and Poole has discovered the Nintendo Wii can help people with multiple sclerosis.

The innovative pilot study published in the BMJ Open, has found using the home video game console offers a range of benefits including increased levels of physical activity, improved balance, confidence and mood and relief from some MS symptoms such as pain and fatigue.

The research was carried out by a team from Bournemouth University in collaboration with Poole Hospital and was given a £127,000 in funding by the MS Society.

Dr Sarah Thomas from Bournemouth University who led the three year Mii-vitaliSe study came up with the idea after enjoying the Wii with her family and realising its potential benefits.

She explained: "I’d been enjoying using the Wii with my niece and parents so knew it crossed generations. I’d noticed there was no MS research involving use of the Wii at home over the longer term.

"It turned out the Dorset Multiple Sclerosis team had been thinking along similar lines having noticed the Wii was being used increasingly by patients. So we developed a grant application together.”

The study involved 30 people with MS from the region who were relatively inactive who used Wii Fit Plus, Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort games at home with the support of a physiotherapist.

Dr Thomas said: "MS is very changeable and fluctuating so we had to have lots of flexibility in the study. We supported people to build up their activity levels gradually. Everyone had their own individual goals with an aim of making regular physical activity part of their lifestyle.

“Some told us they really liked the appeal of something that was off-the-shelf that they could use at home either on their own or with others. This is still early stage research but we hope to build on these promising findings and carry out a bigger study of active gaming.”

MS attacks the nervous system, it is often painful and exhausting and can cause problems with how people walk, move, see, think and feel. The condition is unpredictable and different for everyone. It affects more than 100,000 people in the UK and symptoms typically appear when people are in their 20s and 30s.

Cathy John, 37, from Poole, was diagnosed with MS in 2010 and took part in the study.

She said: “My MS symptoms worsen when my body temperature rises so exercise is difficult for me, but using the Wii enabled me to exercise safely, the programme was tailored for me and I worked on my balance, coordination and body strength. It was fun, too.

“I saw an improvement in my symptoms and this had a positive effect on my mental health.”

Imogen Scott Plummer, head of care and services research at the MS Society added: “Exercising regularly is important when you have MS – as it is for anyone who wants to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We’re really pleased to fund research like this, which looks at new and fun ways to keep people active in a way that’s tailored to their capabilities.”