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Cybercycling Improves Cognitive Function in Elderly

Virtual reality-enhanced exercise better than traditional exercise for cognitive benefit

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Virtual reality-enhanced exercise, or "exergames," such as cybercycling, is associated with a greater cognitive benefit for older adults than traditional exercise, according to a study published online Jan. 17 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Cay Anderson-Hanley, Ph.D., from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., and colleagues conducted a randomized clinical trial comparing the impact of three months of cybercycling with traditional exercise on cognitive function in 102 older adults living in eight retirement communities. The main outcome measures included neurocognitive assessment of executive function (Color Trails Difference, Stroop C, and Digits Backwards) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI); physiological assessment of exercise effort/fitness; and neuroplasticity assessment of plasma brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF).

The researchers observed a significant group × time interaction for composite executive function, when controlling for age, education, and cluster randomization. Compared with traditional exercise, cybercycling yielded a medium effect (d = 0.50). There was a 23 percent decrease in the relative risk of clinical progression to MCI seen for cybercyclists. Exercise effort and fitness were comparable in the two groups. There was a significant group × time interaction for BDNF.

"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," the authors write.

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