WASHINGTON: Using a computer and undertaking a long walk or some form of exercise may protect against memory loss late in life, a study published in the May issue of the Journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests.
The study, which included older adults, computer use and exercise reduced the risk of memory loss, whereas doing either activity alone did not.
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition in which people experience noticeable declines in their cognitive function, including memory and language problems, but are still able to perform everyday activities.
Participants who engaged in moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) and used a computer were 64 percent less likely to have MCI compared with those who did not exercise and did not use a computer.
Some previous studies have found a link between exercise and a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), while others have linked cognitively stimulating activities, such as reading books, playing games or using a computer, and a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment. But no studies have examined the combined effects of exercise and computer use.
Study researcher Dr Yonas Geda, a physician scientist with Mayo Clinic in Arizona and his colleagues surveyed 926 people ages 70 to 93 living in Olmsted County, Minn. Participants were asked whether they had engaged in moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, hiking, aerobics, strength training, yoga or weight lifting, in the past year, and how frequently they participated in the activities. They were also asked about the extent of their computer use.
The researchers speculated that people who engage in both physical activity and computer use may be healthier, more disciplined individuals. In other words, these activities could simply be a marker for a healthy lifestyle.
It's also possible these activities benefit the brain directly. Exercise may increase production of growth factors that promote the survival of nerve cells. Computer use, and other mentally stimulating activities, may enhance connections in the brain, making it more resistant to damage, Dr Geda said. Because the study was conducted in one county, it's not clear whether the results can be generalized to the population as a whole. In addition, a sedentary lifestyle caused by too much computer use may predispose people to health problems, the researchers said.