Older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who indulge in exergames — video games that are also a form of exercise — may experience significant improvement in complex thinking and memory skills, according to a study.
Exergaming relies on technology that tracks body movement or reaction.
The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience,
showed that exergames may slow the debilitating effects of those with MCI, that is often a precursor to Alzheimer’s.
“Exergaming is one more thing that could be added to the arsenal of tools to fight back against this cruel disease,” said lead author Cay Anderson-Hanley from Union College in New York, US.
“The results suggest that the best outcome for brain health may result when we do both: move it and use it,” Hanley added.
The study included more than 100 seniors, with an average age of 78, who were divided into two groups.
One group was assigned to pedal along a scenic virtual reality bike path several times a week where another group had to pedal while playing a video game that included chasing dragons and collecting coins.
The data were then compared against data collected from a separate group 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.
The results showed that participants in both the group who pedaled along a virtual bike path and those that played dragon game experienced significantly better executive function, which controls, in part, multi-tasking and decision making.
Benefits for the exergaming groups were also observed for verbal memory and physical function.
Previous studies have also showed that older adults who used interactive video game features, experienced greater cognitive health benefits than those who relied on traditional exercise alone.