The effects of exergames on muscle strength: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Ricardo Borges Viana, Vinnycius Nunes de Oliveira, Scott J. Dankel, Jeremy P. Loenneke, Takashi Abe, Wellington Fernando da Silva, Naiane Silva Morais, Rodrigo Luiz Vancini, Marília Santos Andrade, Claudio Andre Barbosa de Lira

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


This systematic review and meta-analysis examined studies on the chronic effects of exergames on muscle strength in humans. PubMed, Scopus, CENTRAL, Web of Science, SciELO, Biblioteca Virtual em Saúde, and Google Scholar were searched, and manual searches of the reference lists of included studies and hand-searches on Physiotherapy Evidence Database and ResearchGate were conducted from inception to August 10, 2020. Randomized and non-randomized exergame intervention studies with or without a non-exercise group and/or a “usual care intervention group” (any other intervention that did not incorporate exergames), which evaluated muscle strength through direct measurements, were included. Forty-seven and 25 studies were included in the qualitative review and meta-analysis, respectively. The between-groups meta-analyses showed no significant differences between exergames and non-exercise control groups for handgrip strength in heathy/unhealthy middle-aged/older adults or knee extension maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) in healthy older adults. However, exergames provided a greater increase in handgrip strength, knee flexion MVIC, and elbow extension MVIC, but not knee extension MVIC or elbow flexion MVIC, in individuals with different health statuses when compared to usual care interventions. Also, there was a greater increase in handgrip strength in children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy favouring usual care plus exergames compared to usual care interventions. These results suggest that exergames may improve upper and lower limb muscle strength in individuals with different heath statuses compared to usual care interventions, but not muscle strength in middle age/older adults after accounting for random error. Also, exergames appear to be a useful tool for improving handgrip strength in children with hemiplegic cerebral palsy when added to usual care. However, as the exergame interventions were applied in different populations and there currently are many different approaches to perform exergames, future randomized controlled trials with high methodological quality and large sample sizes are needed to provide more compelling evidence in favour of a specific exergame protocol, or to elucidate exergame protocol design principles that appear to strongly influence outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1592-1611
Number of pages20
JournalScandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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