Saturday, February 25, 2012

Retirement Tips — Cybercycle and Pee for Brain Health

A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine revealed that cycling in a virtual reality improves cognitive function. ‘Cybercycling’ involves a stationery bike with an attached videogame-type screen. The rider must navigate virtual turns and avoid digital obstacles. A related (or not) study found that waiting too long to pee can addle your brain.

The Healthy Aging and Neuropsychology Lab and Department of Psychology at Union College evaluated over 100 riders, aged 58 to 99. I’m impressed that someone 99 can ride a bike at all, much less cybercycle. The control group rode regular stationery bikes with no cyber activity.

The people on the cyberbikes had ‘significantly better executive function…’ i.e. ‘planning, working memory, attention, and problem solving.’ They also had 23% less progression to Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). The only difference between the two groups was the cyber aspect; frequency, intensity, duration—all were the same. The conclusion: requiring riders to interact with a cyber environment—to pay attention and make decisions as they ride—helps keep their gray matter healthy.

An inverse study conducted by a professor of neurology at Brown University found that pain contributes to MCI. For their work on withholding urination, Peter Snyder and his team won a 2012 MSNBC Weird Science award and kudos from those who gave out the 2011 Ig Nobel Prizes.

Subjects drank lots of water but waited to pee until their eyeballs were popping out. Their cognitive abilities were measured throughout via simple computer tasks. The research showed that ‘the painful need to urinate’ impairs driving just as much as 24 hours of sleep deprivation or intoxication just shy of the legal limit. The study gives new meaning to the ditty: ‘Here’s to good old Brown, drink it down, drink it down.’

We can conclude that you’d be wise to make an executive decision to visit the loo before climbing onto your cybercycle. Otherwise the pain from your bursting bladder will undo all the good work your interactive exercise would have accomplished.

Getting back to that cybercycle… I’ve devised a group of cyber activities that you can use with your stationery bike to improve your executive function and prevent MCI. I’m here to serve.

Cyber Vacuuming

This cybercycle app simulates the process of vacuuming your home; it’s highly realistic. As you cycle, you must steer your way around your spouse, who is napping in a recliner with a separate footrest. Ding that footrest and you lose 50 points, but if your spouse fails to wake up during your ride, you earn bonus credit. If you suction the cat’s tail into the vacuum, you lose 100 points. Likewise for the fringe on the oriental rugs. This app is available with several choices of vacuums. The Dyson comes with automatic upgrades.

The Stairmaster

Achieve the benefits of a traditional Stairmaster with this cyber version. Navigate up and down flights of stairs, being careful to avoid such obstacles as misplaced footwear, the dog and the cat. Trip over a shoe or step on any tails or paws and lose 50 points (per appendage). Make the trip with a fully loaded laundry basket for 100 bonus points. Opt for stairs without a handrail and earn an additional 50. This app comes with a time trial option. When you’ve mastered the basics, compete against your own best performance.

Cyber Shopping

Do your grocery shopping on the cybercycle! Key in your store to update sale prices in the software. Cycle through the aisles, pick up items on your list and put them into your cyber basket. Be careful not to bump into the woman in the handicapped cart or knock over the floor stand full of cookies or you’ll lose your cyber discount. Earn bonus points for lifting heavy items on the bottom shelf or reaching ones at the back of the top shelf. Score over 500 points, and your order will be waiting at the real store to take home.

Rush Hour Challenge

This cybercycle app features an Interstate at rush hour. The program puts you in a virtual traffic jam on a familiar highway. Watch out for the teen texting in the lane to your right. She’s about to drift into your car, but you’re the one who will lose points. The road warrior in front of you is going to stop short because he just spilled coffee on his laptop. Not challenging enough? Your spouse forgot to fill the tank and you’ll run out of gas in five minutes. Best to work your way over to the slow lane.

These are just a few of the challenging cybercycle applications that will help you preserve your brain power while you get your requisite dose of daily exercise. All you have to remember now is: pee first.

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