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Published on: May 3, 2012
by Todd Neale for MedPage Today
The combination of exercising and using a computer — although presumably not at the same time — may protect older adults against mild cognitive impairment, a case-control study showed.
Older individuals who reported getting any amount of moderate exercise and using a computer at any point in the previous year were 64% less likely to have mild cognitive impairment compared with those who reported neither activity (OR 0.36, 95% CI 0.20 to 0.68), according to Yonas Geda, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and colleagues.
There was a significant additive interaction between physical activity and computer use (P=0.01), the researchers reported in the May issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Physical activity and various mentally stimulating activities, including computer use, have been associated with a reduced risk of having mild cognitive impairment, but no studies had explored the combined impact.
So Geda and colleagues examined data from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, an ongoing population-based study of individuals living in Olmsted County, Minn. The current analysis included 926 men and women, ages 70 to 93, who did not have dementia.
Overall, 12% had mild cognitive impairment, defined according to the following criteria:
Median daily caloric intake was significantly higher for those with mild cognitive impairment (2,100 versus 1,802 calories, P=0.004), and that was accounted for in all analyses. The researchers also controlled for age, sex, education, medical comorbidity, and depression.
The percentage of patients who reported getting any moderate exercise and using a computer during the previous year was 36% among those who had normal cognition and 18.3% among those who had mild cognitive impairment. The difference was significant after adjustment for potential confounders (P=0.001).
Although the case-control design of the study precluded conclusions about causality, the researchers speculated about some potential mechanisms to explain the finding.
“The combined presence of having participated in both physical exercise and computer use may be a marker of a healthy and disciplined lifestyle,” they wrote.
“On the other hand, it is possible that the combined activities may have direct beneficial effect on the brain,” they continued. “Physical exercise may target a particular circuit in the brain (e.g., increasing the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in the hippocampus), whereas cognitively stimulating activity (e.g., computer use) may enhance functional connections contributing to cognitive reserve.”
The authors acknowledged that study was limited by the lack of information on duration of computer use and possible recall bias.
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