USQ research shows that older adults have much to gain from participating in active gaming. Especially those who report memory loss. The research, published in PLOS ONE, found playing interactive video games could be more effective than traditional exercise for preserving memory in older people.

The study’s senior author Associate Professor Tracy Kolbe-Alexander, from the University of Southern Queensland, said the study compared the effects of a 12-week active video gaming invention, playing Kinect Sports on gaming console Xbox 360, to conventional exercise.

“Previous research has shown physical activity and traditional exercise can improve cognitive and brain health in older adults, as well as physical function,” Associate Professor Kolbe-Alexander said. “However, very little research has explored the benefits of exercise plans involving simultaneous physical and mental challenges in older adults with memory complaints.”

For the study, the researchers, led by PhD student Udhir Ramnath at the University of Cape Town, measured the cognitive performance, physical function and fitness of 45 adults, aged over 72 years, through a series of tests before and after a 12-week trial. Twenty-three participants attended two interactive video game sessions per week, while the other 22 took part in low intensity exercises.

The researchers found the participants who played the video game recorded significant increases in the cognitive tests compared to the other group. At the same time, they improved their physical performance.

“Interactive video gaming is different to traditional exercise as it not only needs physical skill, ability and body movement to control the onscreen character’s movement, but also has a cognitive component that requires visual-spatial skills, hand-eye or foot-eye coordination and quick decision making,” Associate Professor Kolbe-Alexander said. “Our findings indicate that combining these two types of exercises can have a positive effect on an older person’s cognitive function and improve important daily functional abilities like mobility, stability, balance and strength.”

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