Findings favored active video games (AVGs) in balance and falls efficacy promotion.
Across all age groups, AVGs were used most often for balance rehabilitation.
AVG-based physical functioning rehabilitation common in middle-aged/older adults
Falls efficacy was the only similar psychological outcome across all ages/studies.
Larger samples/more psychological rehabilitative outcomes needed in future studies.
A meta-analysis on Active Video Games (AVG) as a rehabilitative tool does not appear to be available. This meta-analytic review synthesizes the effectiveness of AVGs on patients’ rehabilitative outcomes. Ninety-eight published studies on AVGs and rehabilitation were obtained in late 2015 with 14 meeting the following inclusion criteria: 1) data-based English articles; 2) randomized-controlled trials investigating AVG’s effect on rehabilitative outcome(s); and 3) ≥ 1 comparison present in each study. Data extraction for comparisons was completed for three age categories: 1) youth/young adults (5–25 years-old); 2) middle-aged adults (40–65 years-old); and 3) older adults (≥ 65 years-old). Comprehensive Meta-Analysis software calculated effect size (ES; Hedge’s g). Comparison group protocols often employed another non-AVG experimental treatment. Control group protocols implemented standard care. AVGs demonstrated a large positive effect on balance control over control among youth/young adults (ES = 0.81, p < 0.01). Further, AVGs resulted in small positive effects on middle-aged adults’ balance control over control (ES = 0.143, p = 0.48) and comparison (ES = 0.14, p = 0.53), with similar results in older adults compared to control (ES = 0.16, p = 0.27). Notably, AVG’s effect on balance control versus comparison among older adults was small yet negative (ES = − 0.12, p = 0.63). AVGs were also used to enhance general physical functioning (GPF) among middle-aged and older adults. Versus control and comparison, AVGs had no effect on middle-aged adults’ GPF (ES = − 0.054 and − 0.046, respectively) or older adults’ GPF (ES = 0.04 and 0.002, respectively). Finally, AVGs had a moderate effect on older adults’ falls efficacy versus control (ES = 0.61, p < 0.05). Findings favor AVGs for youth/young adult balance control rehabilitation and falls efficacy promotion in older adults.