Mental and Physical Exercise Decrease Cognitive Impairment in Older Adults

The baby boomer generation is finally reaching retirement age. In addition to looking forward to vacations, travel, and more time with family, many older individuals will have to face declining mental and physical health. Advances in modern medicine have given many baby boomers and aging individuals a better quality of life than their ancestors had during their golden years. However, dementia and other cognitive deficiencies are still issues that plague many people approaching retirement. Loss of memory and cognitive ability is an area that causes fear and worry for people who have full use of their capacities. Combating this dilemma is a major concern for health organizations, insurance companies, and communities.

There is existing evidence suggesting that increasing physical exercise and decreasing caloric intake will lower the risk for cognitive impairment in later life. Other studies have demonstrated a clear link between mental exercise and better cognitive functioning. But until now, no study has looked specifically at how physical exercise, daily calorie consumption, and computer use work together to influence the cognitive ability of older individuals. Yona E. Geda, MD, of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology and the Department of Neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, recently conducted the first study that looked at all three factors together. Geda said, “Frequent computer use is becoming increasingly common among all age groups; hence, it is important to examine how it is related to aging and dementia.”

For the study, Geda surveyed individuals that ranged in age from 70 to 93. The participants were asked about their physical activity, their daily calorie consumption, and their computer use in the year before the survey. Geda controlled the results for other factors such as depression, education level, gender, and existing medical conditions and found that the participants who consumed fewer calories and engaged in both physical activity and computer use had significantly higher levels of cognitive functioning than those who were more sedentary. The participants with the most cognitive impairment were those who engaged in little to no physical exercise and did not use computers. These results clearly show that older individuals can lower their risk for cognitive impairment by participating in physically and mentally stimulating exercises and maintaining a healthy and balanced diet.

Geda, Y. E., Silber, T. C., Roberts, R. O., Knopman, D., Christianson, T. J. H. (2012). Computer activities, physical exercise, aging, and mild cognitive impairment: A population-based study. Mayo Clinic Proceedings 87.5, 437-442.

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  • ANDY


    June 18th, 2012 at 12:08 AM

    Since when did computer usage become mental exercise? I was hoping to read about puzzles and crosswords and games like Sudoku!

  • merle


    June 18th, 2012 at 4:42 AM

    Is there any information which states how early someone would have to start this sort of lifestyle for it to have the most impact on their life? Can you start doing more at 70 or does this have to be a lifetime of cumulative effect that will bring about the most benefit?

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