Abstract

Objective: Previous research has found executive function benefits of exercise for older adults. However, only 7% of older adults exercise at recommended levels. Exergaming may be more motivating because of interaction with virtual reality scenery while exercising. One study revealed added cognitive benefit for older adults who rode a stationary bike with an interactive bike tour compared with those that rode a traditional stationary bike. This study compared the neuropsychological benefits of differing types of mental challenges while exercising. Method: College students (n = 107) were randomly assigned to seven different experimental conditions involving varied combinations of physical exercise and/or a mental challenge. One 20 minute bout was involved. Executive function tests were administered pre and post (Trails B, Stroop C, and Digits Backwards). The conditions were stationary bike alone, virtual bike tour while cycling, working memory task while cycling, working memory task alone, meditative cycling, meditation alone, and videogame controlled by cycling. Results: Executive function (Stroop C) was improved significantly more (from pre to post) in those conditions that combined a significant mental challenge along with physical exercise: working memory while cycling, meditative cycling, or videogame while cycling (p = .03, .04, & .002, respectively). Conclusion(s): Executive function benefits of physical exercise might be maximized by adding a mental challenge that is interactive with the physical exercise component. More research is needed to examine the effects of long-term interactive exercise and applicability in the older adult population.