A US study has found that moderate physical exercise and using a computer may have combined benefits in reducing the risk of mild cognitive impairment – early thinking and memory problems which can lead on to dementia. The study is published on 1 May in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
The study followed 926 volunteers between the age of 70 and 93, who had already signed up to take part in a long-term aging study in Minnesota. The volunteers were interviewed about their caloric intake, computer use and the amount of physical exercise they do. They were also assessed for memory and thinking problems by a panel of experts. Within one year of the initial interview, the participants also completed questionnaires about their lifestyle habits.
Of the 926 volunteers that started the study, 12% were assessed as having early stage cognitive decline called mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The scientists found that those volunteers who engaged in moderate physical exercise such as swimming, hiking and brisk walking were less likely to have MCI than those who didn’t exercise. The odds of having MCI were also lower in volunteers who used a computer compared to those who didn’t.
The likelihood of having MCI was significantly lower in computer users who took regular exercise, suggesting that both activities may act independently to protect against cognitive decline.
Dr Marie Janson of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“This study adds to the growing evidence that lifestyle factors may have an impact on our cognition as we age. The research suggests that keeping our bodies and our brains active in later life could have combined benefits in helping to stave off cognitive decline, and it would be interesting to see if the volunteers were also protected against dementia.
“Further research will be needed to be conclusive about these whether these activities are having a beneficial effect, and if they are, exactly how they are protective. This kind of study is costly, in a dementia research field that remains hugely underfunded. If we are to find the answers that are so desperately needed, we must invest in more research now.”