Neuropsychological Benefits of Stationary Bike Exercise and a Cybercycle Exergame for Older Adults with Diabetes

Diabetes, which has been linked to increased risk for dementia and many other health problems, is becoming increasingly common. Exercise has been found to sustain or improve cognitive function in older adults, but only a small percentage of older adults exercise at recommended levels.

This study examined effects of stationary bike exercise on the cognitive functioning of older adults, ages 60 to 88, with and without type 2 diabetes. It analyzed a small dataset from a larger randomized clinical trial called the Cybercycle Study, which compared cognitive and physiological effects of traditional stationary cycling versus cybercycling that provides a video screen displaying appealing bike paths, virtual tours, and racing challenges.  The study of the small dataset found that diabetic participants who used stationary bikes with and without cybercycling screens significantly improved in executive cognitive functioning over time, while non-diabetic participants did not improve in this measure.

Key Findings:

  • Study participants with type 2 diabetes improved in executive cognitive functioning in areas such as planning and mental flexibility for shifting sets, while participants without diabetes did not improve.
  • Unlike the larger Cybercycle Study that found greater cognitive benefits from the use of cybercycles compared to normal stationary bikes, this smaller exploratory study found  no differences in cognitive functioning outcomes between study participants who used cybercycles or used normal stationary bikes.

This research, conducted with support from the Health Games Research national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, suggests that stationary bike exercise may help diabetic patients improve executive cognitive function.