Computer Use + Exercise = Reduced Memory Loss

A study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings  found that combining computer time with moderate exercise reduces your risk of memory loss compared with either activity alone.

Researchers interviewed over 900 70 – 93 year olds after they completed a questionnaire about how often they exercised and used a computer.

Just to clarify, “moderate exercise” included activities like:

  • brisk walking
  • doubles tennis
  • yoga
  • weightlifting.

Mentally stimulating activities, on the other hand, included:

  • reading
  • social interaction
  • using a computer

So why did researchers single out computers?

Because so many people in this study used one on a regular basis.

“The aging of baby boomers is projected to lead to dramatic increases in the prevalence of dementia,” lead researcher Dr. Yonas E. Geda said. “As frequent computer use has becoming increasingly common among all age groups, it is important to examine how it relates to aging and dementia. Our study further adds to this discussion.”

Researchers found a combination of mental and physical stimulation reduced risk for mild cognitive impairment, a condition somewhere between age-related memory loss and early dementia.

More specifically, they found:

  • For participants who neither exercised nor used a computer…
    • 20.1% had normal cognitive function
    • 37.6% showed signs of mild cognitive impairment.
  • For participants who exercised andused a computer…
    • 36% had normal cognitive function
    • 18.3% showed signs of mild cognitive impairment.

In other words, the synergistic effects of exercise and mental stimulation best protected these participants against cognitive decline.

If you’ve read any of my books, especially The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer  you know how much I value exercise and learning as critical tools to age better.

Simply put, people who constantly challenge their minds and bodies live longer and more happily than complacent, sedentary people.

After all, you probably saw the recent study in The Journal of the American Medical Association that showed people who sit more often have shorter life spans.

Evolution designed us to use our bodies for physical activity and our minds for learning, and those demands don’t diminish as we age.

In fact, a study in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise concluded that “no segment of the population…can benefit more from exercise than the elderly.”

Those benefits go beyond physical health: a study in that same journal showed that moderate- and high-intensity resistance exercise programs both benefitted cognitive functioning.

In other words, exercise can boost your mental power. And when your mind remains active and alert, you’re more likely to exercise than if you’re in a mental fog or TV-induced trance.

No matter what your age, I want to propose two challenges to prevent memory loss and keep your mind and body in prime condition:

  1. Develop and maintain a vigorous exercise program. Brisk walking is good, but I want you to step it up a few notches. Try a new exercise class or sport, for instance, to boost your physical and mental skills. I never get tired of talking about my favorite exercise, burst training, which you can do in your own home and requires just minutes a day. You can devote all that time you save to learning a new language or rereading your favorite novel.
  2. Keep your mind active by always engaging in new activities. It doesn’t need to be anything rigorous: mental stimulation might include reading a new author or seeing a film outside your favorite genre. And as this study showed, online learning provides another way to keep your brain stimulated. Join forums about your favorite topics, for instance, or learn a new program.

Harvard University made a list of seven activities you can do to keep your brain healthy and active at any age.

Their number-one strategy is the same as mine: keep learning.