‘Exergaming’ may help those at risk of Alzheimer’s or related dementias

Older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) showed significant improvement with certain complex thinking and memory skills after exergaming (video games that also require physical exercise) | Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience | via ScienceDaily

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The results of a new study could encourage health care providers to pursue or prescribe exergames (video games that also require physical exercise) in hopes of slowing the debilitating effects of those with MCI, sometimes a stage between normal brain aging and dementia.

Previously published research had found that seniors who exercise using the features of interactive video games experienced greater cognitive health benefits than those who rely on traditional exercise alone.

For the latest study, researchers wanted to target older adults diagnosed with or at risk for MCI.  Researchers initially enrolled more than 100 seniors for the study. Over six months, 14 (evenly split between men and women) persisted with regular exergaming. The average age was 78.

The first group of seven was assigned to pedal along a scenic virtual reality bike path several times a week. The second group was given a more challenging task for the brain: pedal while playing a video game that included chasing dragons and collecting coins.

The results were compared against data collected from a separate group of eight seniors who played video games on a laptop but did not pedal, and also a group from the previous research who only rode a traditional stationary bike with no gaming component.

At the end of the randomized clinical trial, participants in both the group that pedaled along a virtual bike path and those that chased dragons and collected coins experienced significantly better executive function, which controls, in part, multi-tasking and decision making.

Benefits for both groups were also seen for verbal memory and physical function, suggesting it may be worth the effort for seniors to incorporate exergaming into a daily exercise regime.

The authors acknowledged that further research with a larger sample size is needed to confirm the team’s findings.  In the meantime, the research suggests benefits of exercising while also stimulating the brain with some mental challenge, such as navigating a scenic bike path or interactively playing a video game.

Full story at ScienceDaily

Full reference: Anderson-Hanley, C . et al. The Aerobic and Cognitive Exercise Study (ACES) for Community-Dwelling Older Adults With or At-Risk for Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): Neuropsychological, Neurobiological and Neuroimaging Outcomes of a Randomized Clinical TrialFrontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 2018; 10

 

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Running helps brain stave off effects of chronic stress

Study finds that exercise protects vital memory and learning functions | Neurobiology of Learning and Memory | via ScienceDaily

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Whilst it is widely acknowledged that getting a little exercise helps when dealing with stress, a new study discovers exercise — particularly running — while under stress also helps protect your memory.

The study, published in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, finds that running mitigates the negative impacts chronic stress has on the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

Lead author Jeff Edwards, states “Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress.”

Further detail at ScienceDaily

Full reference: Running exercise mitigates the negative consequences of chronic stress on dorsal hippocampal long-term potentiation in male mice.  | Neurobiology of Learning and Memory |  2018

Aerobic exercise moderately reduces depressive symptoms in new mothers

Doing aerobic exercise can reduce the level of depressive symptoms experienced by women who have had a baby in the past year | British Journal of General Practice |via National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

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This review of 13 studies showed that involving new mothers in group exercise programmes, or advising them on an exercise of their choice, reduced depressive symptoms compared with usual care. The effect was moderate but significant. Examples of exercise were pram walks, with dietary advice from peers in some studies. The benefits were shown whether or not the mothers had postnatal depression.

The NIHR reports that the evidence does have some limitations regarding its quality but is the best research currently available. This review should give additional confidence to health visitors and GPs to advise women that keeping active after birth can benefit their mental and physical health.

Further detail at NIHR

Full reference: Pritchett R V, Daley A J, Jolly K. Does aerobic exercise reduce postpartum depressive symptoms? A systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of General Practice. 2017;67(663)

Healthy people, healthy planet

Healthy people, healthy planet: The role of health systems in promoting healthier lifestyles and a greener future | Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development 

This report was produced to inform the 2017 meeting of the G7 ministers of health. It provides a broad overview of the main policy actions that G7 countries can take to improve population health and to decrease the human footprint on the environment.

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Image source: http://www.oecd.org

The report makes the following policy recommendations:

  • Support the development and implementation of nutritional guidelines promoting healthier food consumption – as this can lead to less stress on the environmental resources used in food production – as well as reduce the environmental footprint in hospitals and in nursing homes by encouraging healthier food consumption, waste reduction and cleaner energy generation;
  • Create partnerships with various national and local stakeholders, including local city authorities and ministries of industry, environment, transport, and agriculture, in order to incorporate health and environmental considerations into urban planning schemes;
  • Implement public health actions encouraging more physical activity and greater reliance on active modes of transportation, such as through physical activity-promoting mass media campaigns, bike sharing schemes and creating low-emission zones.

Full report: Healthy people, healthy planet

Intensive lifestyle interventions can help obese young people lose weight

O’Connor EA, Evans CV, Burda BU, et al. Screening for Obesity and Intervention for Weight Management in Children and Adolescents: Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force. JAMA. 2017;317(23):2427-44.

BikeObese children and adolescents can lose up to seven pounds over six to 12 months when they engage in at least 52 hours of behaviour-based lifestyle interventions. Minimal benefit was seen with shorter contact time, with less than 25 hours ineffective. The control group gained weight.

Rising obesity in the young is a global concern, which may lead to high rates of obesity-related diseases in adulthood. This review identified trials covering various weight management strategies. Lifestyle-based-interventions with sufficient contact time – as recommended by UK guidelines – showed clear benefits with no evidence of harms.

Investing in effective strategies to manage child obesity will ultimately save healthcare costs. Behaviour-based support should now be assessed for long-term weight loss and maintenance.

The evidence is still lacking whether universal child screening for obesity should be performed in the UK.

NICE recommends ‘lifestyle tips’ for 1.7m at risk of type 2 diabetes

People at the highest risk of type 2 diabetes should be given intensive exercise and weight loss help by the NHS, NICE has recommended.

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Healthcare professionals, from GPs to community nurses and pharmacists, should refer people with elevated blood sugars to exercise classes and nutrition courses, NICE has said in updated guidance.  Lifestyle-change programmes, such as NHS England and Public Health England (PHE)’s ‘Healthier You: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme’, provide personalised help for patients to change their diet and increase their physical activity.

NICE has identified 1.7 million people as having the highest risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and  recommends that GPs should see specific groups of patients for a diabetes risk assessment.

Full guidance: Type 2 diabetes: prevention in people at high risk

Physical inactivity levels in adults aged 40 to 60 in England

Public Health England has released data on brisk walking levels and physical inactivity in people aged between 40 and 60 in England from 2015 to 2016.

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Data released by Public Health England (PHE) has shown that the amount of activity people do starts to tail off from the age of 40. PHE estimates 40% of 40- to 60-year-olds take a brisk 10-minute walk less frequently than once a month.

The analyses were carried out by PHE using data from Sport England’s Active Lives Survey, which is designed to measure participation in sport and physical activity in England.

PHE  say just 10 minutes a day could have a major impact, reducing the risk of early death by 15%. To help, the government agency is promoting a free app – Active 10 – which can monitor the amount of brisk walking an individual does and provide tips on how to incorporate more into the daily routine.

In addition, the PHE framework ‘Everybody active, every day’ has been updated. This framework aims to make active lifestyles a reality for all, with 4 areas for action which will:

  • change the social ‘norm’ to make physical activity the expectation
  • develop expertise and leadership within professionals and volunteers
  • create environments to support active lives
  • identify and up-scale successful programmes nationwide

Full document:
Everybody active, every day: an evidence-based approach to physical activity

Related: BBC News: Middle-aged told to walk faster

The Guardian: 6 million middle-aged people take no exercise