'Exergames' Can Improve Cognitive Function in Older Adults

Jan 26, 2012, 2:35 AM, Posted by

We all hear about the benefits of physical activity beyond weight management. According to the Centers for Disease Control, exercise helps to improve your ability to do daily activities, mental health and mood. This is especially important later in life to improve cognitive function protecting against the onset of dementia. However, as the CDC estimates, only 14 percent of adults aged 65 to 74 years and 7 percent of those over 75 years exercise regularly.

Health Games Research grantee Dr. Cay Anderson-Hanley and her fellow researchers from the Healthy Aging and Neuropsychology Lab at Union College, New York set, out to find new interventions motivating older adults to exercise and promote good brain health.  They tested the impact of virtual reality-enhanced exercise, or exergames, that combine pedaling a stationary bike with an interactive video game compared to traditional exercise. Researchers evaluated participants’ executive cognitive function such as their ability to multi-task, problem-solve, and working memory and attention.

What they found was that adults ages 58 to 99 who participated in ‘cybercycling’ two to three times a week for three months had significantly better executive functioning than those using a traditional stationary bike.  This is the first study to quantitatively evaluate the benefits of exergames. 

You can also check more about the research featured in The Atlantic’s “Study of the Day,” CNN’s The Chart Blog, MedpageToday.com and The Los Angeles Times Booster Shot Blog.

To learn more, see the article in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, or check out Pioneer’s national program Health Games Research to see what they are doing to explore ways to advance the research, design, and effectiveness of digital games and game technologies that promote health.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneering Ideas blog.