ElderlyElectronic MediaExercise

Exergaming for older adults

At first, I was skeptical, but research suggests there are benefits.

Researchers at Skidmore College, at Saratoga Springs, New York, studied the effects of stationary cycling virtual reality tours (“cybercycle”) on executive function and clinical status.

First, the details.

  • 102 older adults from 8 retirement communities were assigned to a treatment group for 3 months.
    • Cybercycling virtual reality tours
    • Traditional exercise
  • A battery of tests was used to judge changes in executive function (mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action); clinical status (biological health status).
  • Also, exercise effort/fitness; and blood levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) were measured.
    • BDNF: Expression of this gene is reduced in both Alzheimer’s and Huntington disease patients.
  • The researchers controlled for potentially confounding factors

And, the results.

  • Cybercycling yielded a medium effect over traditional exercise.
    • Cybercyclists had a 23% relative risk reduction in clinical progression to mild cognitive impairment.
  • Exercise effort and fitness were comparable, suggesting another underlying mechanism were responsible for the changes seen.
  • There was significantly enhanced neuroplasticity (a non-specific neuroscience term referring to the ability of the brain and nervous system to change structurally and functionally) among cybercyclists.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Cybercycling older adults achieved better cognitive function than traditional exercisers, for the same effort, suggesting that simultaneous cognitive and physical exercise has greater potential for preventing cognitive decline.”

More on this exercise option is discussed here.

1/26/12 23:47 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.