Computer Use + Exercise = A Promising Way to Ward Off Memory Loss

Results from a new study add to growing research that simple, mentally stimulating activities are good for our noggins.

Turns out being on a computer for a long time has its perks. Computer use, combined with a good amount of physical exercise, may be good for preventing memory loss later in life. Photograph courtesy of iStockphoto.

It pains us to hear almost daily how excessive sitting can kill you, even with the proper amount of exercise. But here’s one thing those of us chained to our desks can feel good about: Computer use, combined with physical exercise, may reduce our chances of suffering from memory loss later in life.

In a new study, researchers found that using a computer and getting moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or swimming, decreased one’s chances of having mild cognitive impairments later in life.

Researchers studied almost 1,000 people in Olmstead County, Minnesota, in the 70-to-93 age bracket. Each participant filled out a questionnaire on his or her physical exercise and computer use.

While participants were also asked about other mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, doing crafts, and playing games, the researchers focused on computer use due to its growing popularity across all age groups.

They found that 37.6 percent of those who did not exercise or use a computer showed signs of mild cognitive impairment, which is the intermediate stage between normal memory loss and early Alzheimer’s disease. In comparison, of those who reported engaging in exercise and computer use, the percentage was cut almost in half–18.3 percent of participants showed signs of mild cognitive impairment.

The results make sense, said the study’s author, Yonas E. Geda, who noted that previous studies have found computer use was associated with a decreased odds of having mild cognitive impairments. Numerous studies have shown that physical exercise, including even simple household chores, can help ward off Alzheimer’s and other memory-related illnesses.

This study, though preliminary, shows that a combination of computer use and physical exercise makes for a healthy cocktail. Geda is hopeful that the results will lead to more interventional research for Alzheimer’s, aging, and dementia, and lead to even better outcomes.

Sounds like our grandparents may want to jump on the technology bandwagon after all, whether they–or those who have to teach them–like it or not.