If you spend too much time in front of a computer, you might not get enough exercise. But if you manage to balance your time on the computer with moderate exercise, you'll lessen your chances of memory loss as you age.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic say the combination of computer and exercise is more effective than either computer use or exercise alone.

Previous studies have shown that exercising your body and your mind will help your memory but the new study, published in the May 2012 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, adds a new dimension. It reports a synergistic interaction between computer activities and moderate exercise in “protecting” the brain function in people more than 70 years old.

Researchers studies 926 people in Olmsted County, Minn., ages 70 to 93, who completed self-reported questionnaires on physical exercise, and computer use within one year prior of the date of interview.

Exercising your muscles and your brain

Moderate physical exercise was defined 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 Dr. Yonas E. Geda, a physician scientist with Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Recognizing what keeps seniors mentally sharp is more important now than ever.

“The aging of baby boomers is projected to lead to dramatic increases in the prevalence of dementia,” Geda said. “As frequent computer use has become 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.”

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