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Study: Physically-active video games (‘exergames’) boost cognition more than physical activity alone

Active gaming is good for brain health and memory, finds study (University of Manchester release):

“Video games which involve physical activity significantly boost our brain health as we get older, according to new research led by University of Manchester experts.

Study authors Dr Emma Stanmore and Joseph Firth say systems that use physical activity for gaming such as Wii, and Xbox Kinect can boost brain functioning in people with neurological impairment, as well as keeping our minds healthy and active as we age.

In the first ever analysis of all published evidence, the researchers aggregated data from 17 clinical trials examining the effects of active gaming on cognitive functioning across 926 people…

“Physically-active video games have, according to our research, greater impact on brain functioning than regular physical activity alone – suggesting that their benefits are more than just moving around…The brain benefits may be because these activities are physically demanding, while also requiring concentration and cognitive effort, resulting in positive effects for body and brain.”

The Study

The effect of active video games on cognitive functioning in clinical and non-clinical populations: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews)

  • Abstract: Physically-active video games (‘exergames’) have recently gained popularity for leisure and entertainment purposes. Using exergames to combine physical activity and cognitively-demanding tasks may offer a novel strategy to improve cognitive functioning. Therefore, this systematic review and meta-analysis was performed to establish effects of exergames on overall cognition and specific cognitive domains in clinical and non-clinical populations. We identified 17 eligible RCTs with cognitive outcome data for 926 participants. Random-effects meta-analyses found exergames significantly improved global cognition (g = 0.436, 95% CI = 0.18–0.69, p = 0.001). Significant effects still existed when excluding waitlist-only controlled studies, and when comparing to physical activity interventions. Furthermore, benefits of exergames where observed for both healthy older adults and clinical populations with conditions associated with neurocognitive impairments (all p < 0.05). Domain-specific analyses found exergames improved executive functions, attentional processing and visuospatial skills. The findings present the first meta-analytic evidence for effects of exergames on cognition. Future research must establish which patient/treatment factors influence efficacy of exergames, and explore neurobiological mechanisms of action.

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