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Seniors May Enhance Brain Function with Exercise and Computer Use

senior adults using a laptop

Study shows this combination appears to help lower risk of age-related memory loss

A new study suggests that when combined, moderate exercise and mental stimulation through spending time with a computer may help in reducing the odds of experiencing memory loss due to aging more than computer time or exercise alone.

For the study, the researchers included 920 people in Olmsted County, Minn., 70 to 93 years of age, who were asked to complete a survey regarding their computer use and physical activity over the past year. The study appears in the May issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The researchers from Mayo Clinic found signs of mild impairment in cognitive function in almost 38 percent of study participants who did not engage in exercise and did not spend computer time. On the other hand, mild cognitive impairment was noted in only over 18 percent of those who exercised moderately and also used a computer. Mild impairment in cognitive function is the stage between normal memory loss due to aging and early Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition, the researchers found that 36 percent of participants who engaged in moderate exercise and spent time using a computer showed normal memory function, compared with an estimated 20 percent of those who did not engage in physical activity or spent time with a computer.

What constitute moderate exercises?

In a news release issued by Mayo Clinic, the study authors elucidated that moderate exercise included physical activities, such as brisk walking, hiking, aerobics, strength training, golfing without using a golf cart, swimming, doubles tennis, yoga, martial arts, weightlifting and using exercise machines.

Study author Dr. Yonas Geda, a physician scientist at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, said in the news release that the maturing of the baby boomer population is expected to result in “dramatic increases” in the incidence of dementia. “As frequent computer use has become increasingly common among all age groups, it is important to examine how it relates to aging and dementia. Our study further adds to this discussion,” Geda added.

However, despite the fact that the study found a link between the combination of moderate exercise and computer use enhanced memory function, it did not provide evidence of a cause-and-effect association.

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