Protecting brain function with a good dose of mental activity mixed with a dash of physical exercise may be just what we need to stay “brain fit.” A recent Mayo Clinic study reports an interaction between computer use and moderate exercise that helps protect against mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in older adults. Challenging both your body and your mind decreases your odds of having memory loss more than computer use or exercise alone.
Researchers studied 926 people in Olmsted County, Minn., ages 70 to 93. Subjects completed self-report questionnaires on physical exercise, and computer use in the past 12 months. Moderate physical exercise was defined as brisk walking, hiking, aerobics, strength training, golfing without a golf cart, swimming, doubles tennis, yoga, martial arts, using exercise machines and weightlifting. Mentally stimulating activities included reading, crafts, computer use, playing games, playing music, group and social and artistic activities and watching less television. “Of those activities, the study singled out computer use because of its popularity,” said study author Yonas E. Geda, M.D., a physician scientist with Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
“The aging of baby boomers is projected to lead to dramatic increases in the prevalence of dementia,” Dr. Geda said, in a press release. “As frequent computer use has becoming 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.”
The study examined the relationship of exercise and computer use to neurological risks such as mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment is the intermediate stage between normal memory loss that comes with aging and early Alzheimer’s disease. Of the study participants who did not exercise and did not use a computer, about 20 percent were cognitively normal and almost 38 percent showed signs of mild cognitive impairment. Of the participants who both exercise and use a computer, 36 percent were cognitively normal and only 18 percent showed signs of MCI.
Keep your brain fit. Combining mentally stimulating activities, such as using a computer, with moderate exercise decreases your odds of having memory loss more than computer use or exercise alone. Previous studies have shown that exercising your body and your mind will help your memory, but the new study, published in the May 2012 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, reports a synergistic interaction between computer activities and moderate exercise in “protecting” the brain function in people better than 70 years old.