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February 22, 2012

Exergames: Exercises for Older Adults

Filed under: health — mjones @ 10:10 pm

Exercise is particularly important for older adults. Exercise is typically divided into four types: those that work on strength and muscle, those that work on cardiovascular endurance, those that work on flexibility, and those that work on balance. In regards to strength and muscle exercises, muscle mass starts to decline after age thirty, so it is very important to keep up your strength and quality of tissue. As we age, we also lose aerobic fitness ability, which contributes to reduced mobility in daily life. It is equally as important to keep up one’s flexibility, because joints change with age and this can lead to stiffness, decreased range of motion, and more injuries. Lastly, seniors should focus on their balance. Balance exercises can help seniors avoid injuries from falls and keep one independent and mobile.

A new study suggests that interactive exercise, which tests a senior’s cognitive abilities, has more benefits than traditional exercise for adults between 59 and 99. These cognitive challenging exercises are called exergames. As Dr. Cay Anderson-Hanley, from the Healthy Aging and Neuropsychology Lab and Department of Psychology at Union College in NY, stated, “we found that for older adults, virtual-reality enhanced interactive exercise, or cybercyling two to three times per week for 3 months, yielded greater cognitive benefit, and perhaps added protection against mild cognitive impairment (MCI), than a similar dose of traditional exercise.”

The exergames consisted of adults riding recumbent stationary bikes; however, they were experiencing 3D competition racing against a virtual bike rider based on their last best ride. While engulfed in the cyber exergames, not only did the adults experience exercise, they also were required to plan, work their memory, use their attention, and problem solve. Further, there was no difference in exercise frequency, intensity, or duration found between the adults riding a regular recumbent stationary bike and the adults involved in the exergames, indicating that factors other than effort and fitness were responsible for the cognitive benefit.

The results of this study are important. Not only are will exercise help keep cholesterol and cardiovascular health in check for older adults, but interactive exercise has significant positive cognitive results as well!

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