January 23, 2012

Exercise Games Improve Adult Brains

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Virtual reality exercise games could be linked to higher cognitive benefits for adults who are older. A new study finds virtual reality exercise otherwise known as "exergames" combines computer enhanced environments and features of interactive videogames to provide more cognitive benefits than traditional exercise for adults who are between 59 and 99 years old.

Cay Anderson-Hanley, Ph. D., from the Healthy Aging and Neuropsychology Lab and Department of Psychology at Union College, Schenectady, NY was quoted as saying, "We found that for older adults, virtual-reality enhanced interactive exercise, or cybercycling two to three times per week for 3 months, yielded greater cognitive benefit, and perhaps added protection against mild cognitive impairment (MCI), than a similar dose of traditional exercise."

Even though research has proven regular exercise improves cognitive functioning in normal aging while also delaying dementia, only 14% of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 and only 7% of adults over 75 report exercise. The Cybercycle Study observed 101 adults from 58 to 99 years old. Approximately 75 adults rode identical recumbent stationary bikes. However, the experimental bike was a cybercycle that allowed them to race against a virtual bike rider that was created based on their last best ride and experience 3D tours. Sixty-three percent of adults completed the study by averaging three rides a week. Planning, working memory, attention, and problem solving were all functions that were observed throughout the experiment to measure cognitive benefits.

Research showed that those who rode the cybercycle experienced significantly better executive function than the adults who rode the traditional bike. Co-investigator Paul Arciero, Ph.D., professor of health and exercise sciences at Skidmore College, was quoted as saying, "No difference in exercise frequency, intensity, or duration was found between the two groups, indicating that factors other than effort and fitness were responsible for the cognitive benefit."

Cay Anderson-Hanley, PH.D., was also quoted as saying, "Navigating a 3D landscape, anticipating turns, and competing with others require additional focus, expanded divided attention, and enhanced decision making. These activities depend in part on executive function, which was significantly affected."

Participants of the study commented that they actually enjoyed the thrill of racing their avatar and the thrill of virtual stimulation.

Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, January 2012