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“Exergaming” improves cognitive function of older patients

Playing video games isn’t bad at all, especially when it requires physical activity. “Exergaming,” a term used to describe playing interactive video games, can help improve the cognitive function of older adults, according to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

The study was made after Cay Anderson-Hanley, who was the lead author, and her team discovered in previous research that older people who exercised with interactive video games gained greater cognitive health benefits than those who depended on traditional exercise alone. For this study, Anderson-Hanley and her team aimed to target older adults diagnosed with or at risk of mild cognitive impairment, which is a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.

Initially, researchers recruited over 100 older adults diagnosed with or at risk for mild cognitive impairment. However, only 14 participants continued exergaming for over six months. The 14 participants were divided into two groups. The first group was tasked to pedal along a scenic virtual reality bike path several times each week; while the second group was instructed to pedal while playing a video game that included chasing dragons and collecting coins, which is a more challenging task for the brain compared to that of the first group. The special bikes used were placed at different locations, such as hospitals, community centers, and independent living centers.

The researchers compared the results with data gathered from a different group of eight older people who played video games on a laptop but did not pedal, and data from the earlier research who only rode a traditional stationary bike with no gaming component.

Based on the results, participants who pedaled along a virtual bike path and those who chased dragons and collected coins exhibited significantly better executive function, which is partly responsible for multi-tasking and decision-making. Both groups also showed improvements in verbal memory and physical function, which suggest incorporating exergaming into an everyday exercise routine would be beneficial for older adults.

“Exergaming is one more thing that could be added to the arsenal of tools to fight back against this cruel disease,” said Anderson-Hanley.

The researchers concluded that the study could be used to encourage older people, caregivers, and health care providers to pursue or prescribe exergaming as a way to improve cognitive function and to fight Alzheimer’s disease.

The study was funded through a grant from the National Institute on Aging.

Why exergaming is better than traditional gaming

Playing video games has been negatively perceived by some because it increases a person’s sedentary time, which can result in greater risks for health complications. However, playing video games can also be a way to promote health. Unlike traditional gaming, exergaming can actually lessen an individual’s sedentary time because it requires physical activity from the player in order to play the game.

Another advantage of exergaming is that it is able to combine enjoyment and utility. This makes exercise more fun, especially for those who are not interested in physical movement. Exergaming can also increase the player’s social well-being. Exergames are more often played in a group, making it easier to meet new people and make new friends. Because of these benefits, exergaming can be suggested as an alternative to traditional video gaming.

Nevertheless, even though exergaming can promote health, it should not be taken as the only means of getting exercise. Other forms of physical activity should be used together with exergames. (Related: Proven Ways To Stay Fit Without A Gym.)

Read more news stories and studies on how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease by going to

Sources include: 1 2

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