A new Mayo Clinic study suggests a combination of mentally stimulating exercises and physical exercise lowers the risk of memory loss.

Researchers say that while previous studies have shown that exercising your body and your mind will help your memory, this study is the first to report a synergistic interaction between computer activities and moderate exercise in protecting the brain function in people better than 70 years old.

In the study, researchers followed 926 people in Olmsted County, Minn., ages 70 to 93, who completed self-reported questionnaires on physical exercise, and computer use for the past year.

In the survey, investigators defined moderate physical exercise as brisk walking, hiking, aerobics, strength training, golfing without a golf cart, swimming, doubles tennis, yoga, martial arts, using exercise machines and weightlifting.

Mentally stimulating activities included reading, crafts, computer use, playing games, playing music, group and social and artistic activities and watching less television.

Of those activities the study singled out computer use because of its popularity, said study author Yonas E. Geda, M.D., M.Sc., a physician scientist with Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

“The aging of baby boomers is projected to lead to dramatic increases in the prevalence of dementia,” Geda said. “As frequent computer use has becoming increasingly common among all age groups, it is important to examine how it relates to aging and dementia. Our study further adds to this discussion.”

The study examined exercise, computer use and the relationship to neurological risks such as mild cognitive impairment.

Mild cognitive impairment is memory loss beyond the norm based on age and education, yet not significant enough to influence activities of daily living.

Of the study participants who did not exercise and did not use a computer, 20.1 percent were cognitively normal and 37.6 percent showed signs of mild cognitive impairment.

Of the participants who both exercise and use a computer, 36 percent were cognitively normal and 18.3 percent showed signs of MCI.

Source: Mayo Clinic