‘Exergaming’ may help those at risk of Alzheimer’s or related dementias

Older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) showed significant improvement with certain complex thinking and memory skills after exergaming (video games that also require physical exercise) | Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience | via ScienceDaily

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The results of a new study could encourage health care providers to pursue or prescribe exergames (video games that also require physical exercise) in hopes of slowing the debilitating effects of those with MCI, sometimes a stage between normal brain aging and dementia.

Previously published research had found that seniors who exercise using the features of interactive video games experienced greater cognitive health benefits than those who rely on traditional exercise alone.

For the latest study, researchers wanted to target older adults diagnosed with or at risk for MCI.  Researchers initially enrolled more than 100 seniors for the study. Over six months, 14 (evenly split between men and women) persisted with regular exergaming. The average age was 78.

The first group of seven was assigned to pedal along a scenic virtual reality bike path several times a week. The second group was given a more challenging task for the brain: pedal while playing a video game that included chasing dragons and collecting coins.

The results were compared against data collected from a separate group of eight seniors who played video games on a laptop but did not pedal, and also a group from the previous research who only rode a traditional stationary bike with no gaming component.

At the end of the randomized clinical trial, participants in both the group that pedaled along a virtual bike path and those that chased dragons and collected coins experienced significantly better executive function, which controls, in part, multi-tasking and decision making.

Benefits for both groups were also seen for verbal memory and physical function, suggesting it may be worth the effort for seniors to incorporate exergaming into a daily exercise regime.

The authors acknowledged that further research with a larger sample size is needed to confirm the team’s findings.  In the meantime, the research suggests benefits of exercising while also stimulating the brain with some mental challenge, such as navigating a scenic bike path or interactively playing a video game.

Full story at ScienceDaily

Full reference: Anderson-Hanley, C . et al. The Aerobic and Cognitive Exercise Study (ACES) for Community-Dwelling Older Adults With or At-Risk for Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): Neuropsychological, Neurobiological and Neuroimaging Outcomes of a Randomized Clinical TrialFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 2018; 10

 

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