Older people are being sought by NUI Galway researchers to participate in a new study which keeps the mind active while exercising. Volunteers are invited to spend 20 minutes on a cyber-cycle, which combines a traditional exercise bike with an interactive video game. Participants can compete with other riders, or enjoy the scenery along a virtual bike path through a woodland setting or the cityscapes of Paris.
Dr Cay Anderson-Hanley, a Fulbright scholar from the United States, is collaborating with Dr Michael Hogan, Lecturer in Psychology, at NUI Galway on the project.
“Most of us are already aware of the physical benefits of exercise: it can help control weight, combat illness, improve certain health conditions, and increase energy”, explains Dr Anderson-Hanley. “Recently, significant strides have been made in research examining the cognitive benefits of physical exercise. Such research has taken on new urgency given the changing demographics of our society, with longevity increasing around the world, and dementias such as Alzheimer’s on the rise.”
In her previous research, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Dr Anderson-Hanley incorporated ‘exergames’ into the experimental design of a long-term exercise intervention at Union College in New York. Her study found that the older adults who engaged in exergaming yielded better results for the participants than an equivalent dose of traditional exercise.
“We focused on this kind of ‘exergaming’, where mental and physical exercise are interwoven”, says Dr Anderson-Hanley. Our results showed added cognitive benefit in some, while for others it prevented further decline. We are now looking to test this theory on a selection of older adults in Ireland.”
For the NUI Galway study, participants’ cognitive status will be evaluated before and after the exercise session, using brief pen and paper measures and computer tasks. Brain functions will also be measured with electroencephalography (EEG) where electrical activity across the scalp is detected with sensitive electrodes worn as a special cap.
Ideally, the research team would like to hear from volunteers aged 65 and over, with up to 40 volunteers needed in total. Those interested should contact Julia Dimitrova at the Aerobic and Cognitive Exercise Study lab (ACES) in NUI Galway on 091-494069 or email ACEStudyIreland@gmail.com