Exercising while playing video games may help Alzheimer’s sufferers, new research suggests.
Older people with mild cognitive impairment, which often occurs before dementia, have better ‘executive functions’ after playing interactive games while riding exercise bikes – known as ‘exergaming’, a study found.
Executive functions enable people to multi task, make decisions and recall memories.
Lead author Professor Cay Anderson-Hanley, from Union College, New York, said: ‘Executive function is like the CEO of the brain. It is key to remaining independent in later life.
‘For example, it allows you to cook two things on the stove at once. It makes sure you don’t forget that you are boiling water while also having something in the oven.’
The researchers believe the combination of exercise and a mental challenge helps stimulate the brain.
Alzheimer’s disease affects around 5.5 million people in the US and 850,000 in the UK.
Exercising while playing video games may help Alzheimer’s sufferers (stock)
IS DELAYED SPEECH A SIGN OF ALZHEIMER’S?
Pauses in speech and taking longer to talk may be early signs of mental decline, research suggested in July 2017.
People with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease who are at-risk of developing the condition are less able to express their ideas and have reduced ‘fluency’ when speaking, a study found.
They also use words such as ‘it’ or ‘they’ rather than specific names for things and speak in shorter sentences, the research adds.
Julie Liss, a speech expert at Arizona State University, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘Those are all indicators of struggling with that computational load that the brain has to conduct’.
The researchers, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducted a picture-description test on 400 healthy people.
Such tests involve participants viewing a picture and answering a multiple-choice question about it.
The researchers carried out the same test on 264 people in their 50s and 60s, most of which had a parent with Alzheimer’s disease and were considered at-risk of the condition.
Two years later, the same participants repeated the test.
‘Exergaming adds to the arsenal of tools to fight back against this cruel disease’
Professor Anderson-Hanley said: ‘It’s promising data. Exergaming is one more thing that could be added to the arsenal of tools to fight back against this cruel disease.’
The researchers are hoping to develop a game that older people can download to their iPads and play while riding an exercise bike at home.
They also plan to conduct a larger study investigating the benefits of exergaming.
Professor Anderson-Hanley said: ‘The goal is to explore even more effective ways to prevent or ameliorate cognitive decline in older adults by tailoring accessibility and level of mental engagement in interactive cognitive and physical exercise.
‘The results suggest that the best outcome for brain health may result when we do both: move it and use it.’
How the research was carried out
The researchers analysed 14 people, with an average of 78, who were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.
Half of the participants pedalled along a scenic virtual reality path several times a week.
The remainder rode an exercise bike while playing a video game that required them to chase dragons and collect coins.
These participants were compared against people who either only played video games or just rode exercise bikes.
The findings were published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
The combination of exercise and a mental challenge is thought to stimulate the brain (stock)
Alzheimer’s will be as manageable as HIV within 10 years
This comes after award-winning scientists predicted last March that Alzheimer’s will be as manageable as HIV within 10 years.
Future dementia treatments will be taken before the condition develops to prevent symptoms rather than attempting to reverse them, according to Professor Michel Goedert, who was involved in discovering the importance of protein plaques in Alzheimer’s onset.
Professor Goedert, from the University of Cambridge, added: ‘Alzheimer’s will become something like HIV.
‘It’s still there but it has been contained or whittled down by drug treatments.
‘It will disappear as a major problem from society.’