Currently viewing the tag: "physical activity"

Want a new tool in your anti-aging arsenal? Try gaming. Video gaming that is. New research suggests that playing video games might just help slow down the effects of aging on mental function. And you thought Grand Theft Auto was just for psychos.

According to experts, playing video games can improve older adults’ reflexes, processing speed, memory, attention skills and spatial abilities. Not bad, not bad. And gaming systems like Nintendo’s Wii could even provide seniors with some physical activity. For those who don’t know, the Wii has special controllers requiring hand and arm movements. Although not an ideal form of physical fitness in my humble opinion, some movement is certainly better than nothing.

Saying that, one study did find that seniors playing the Wii bowling game had boosted heart rate during the activity. The study’s participants were between 60-80-years-old.

As far as improved cognitive function, a 2008 study which looked at 60-70-year-olds playing the computer game, Rise of Nations, found that the participants had increased performance on tests of memory, reasoning and cognition. Especially notable were improvements in planning, scheduling, dealing with ambiguity and multi-tasking. Now that’s pretty darn substantial in my book.

Associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, Jason Allaire is co-director of its Gains Through Gaming Lab. The Lab has received $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation for further research and how gaming can boost memory and thinking skills in the elderly. Bravo to that!

Researchers plan to focus on three fundamental areas of cognition:

  • Attention demand–most video games require deep attention and focus, useful skills to every area of life
  • Novelty–learning new things creates new dendritic formation, a must in keeping mentally sharp
  • Social interaction–video gaming is often done with others, and now with online gaming…well, a new social outlet is here for the taking

My regular readers know how much I value maintaining mental sharpness. As long as your brain is firing, you are interacting as a conscious life form (I know that’s debatable, but play along). And when you are firing on all cylinders, watch out! Do I think playing video games is better than learning a language, mathematics or an instrument–no, I don’t. But as a supplement, or for people who just can’t bring themselves to become more academic, heck play a video game–they’re fun!

Hey you! Yeah…you. Don’t be a sitting duck. Get off your a$$ and move around. Sitting for too long can get you killed, literally. Several studies suggest that prolonged sitting can cause obesity, heart disease and even death. And let’s not forget hemorrhoids.

According to an editorial published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, physical activity is not enough–sitting too long causes the genes that regulate glucose and fat in the body start to shut down. Whether the sitting is done in a classroom, a car, or in front of the T.V. or computer is inconsequential. What matters is time.

In a Canadian study published last year, 17,000 people were followed for twelve years: Those that sat the most had a higher death risk, independent of whether they exercised or not. Holy hematochezia! That means…aw man, I’m in trouble.

I’m not the only American needing to worry: A 2003-2004 U.S. survey found that Americans spend more than half their time sitting, from working at their desks to sitting in cars. Although preliminary, these studies point out the dangers of taking too much of a load off.

Well, I must say I’m truly listening to this one. Although I am a highly active person, I also sit a lot. And the results of these preliminary studies make sense to me. The human body is made to move–movement is a part of our very survival. Not in just the obvious way as a means of catching food or escaping predators, but as a way to detect changes in the environment. Our moving parts have receptors–sensory devices that sense the world around us. When these are not used (through movement) regularly, the function of the body is disrupted. Chiropractors know this; we do our part to keep these moving parts moving through adjusting subluxations (stuck joints). But actual movement also need to be carried out. Sitting on your rump is not movement.

So if you want to win the lottery, you’ve gotta buy a ticket. And if you want to get the most out of your movable body, well you figure it out. But may I suggest you not be a sitting duck?

Does more activity in school cause kids to be more active out of school? Nope, not according to research conducted in Great Britain. In fact, children may have a “set-point” for activity; and once reached, it may shut down a child’s further activity for the day.

206 children, ages 7-11, were followed for one week for four consecutive school terms and their activity levels measured and recorded by accelerometers–the devices currently used in video game controllers. They were set on three different physical education schedules–9.2, 2.4, or 1.7 hours per week. The accelerometers recorded the kids’ duration and intensity of activity.

The researchers found that those kids most active in school were least active outside of school or at home. Those least active at school were most active when outside of school. They believe that people in general have a “personal set point” that determines their activity level, and they will tend to reach it one way or the other.

This information comes at a useful time, while public health official and educators attempt to deal with the rising obesity problem amongst children, and shoots down the assumption that more opportunities for activity will lead to just that. As co-researcher Alissa Fremeaux, from Peninsula Medical School puts it, “These findings have implications for anti-obesity policies because they challenge creating more opportunity for children to be active–by providing more playgrounds, sports facilities, and more physical education time in schools–will mean more physical activity.

I think the interesting thing about these findings is that we have had this sense intuitively about activity levels being sort of personalized to each individual. But in trying to deal with obesity in general, and in children specifically, we have been searching for answers, and it may not be in activity levels at all. In fact, an earlier study this week has showed that most obesity is due to overeating, not lack of physical fitness. So bravo to the researchers looking hard at this stuff. It looks like we are getting a clearer picture.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Nick Campos - All Rights Reserved.