The study, published in the May issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, included more than 920 people in Olmsted County, Minn., aged 70 to 93, who completed questionnaires about their computer use and physical activity over the previous year.
The Mayo Clinic researchers found signs of mild cognitive impairment in nearly 38 percent of participants who did not exercise and did not use a computer, compared with just over 18 percent of those who did moderate exercise and also used a computer. Mild cognitive impairment is the stage between normal age-related memory loss and early Alzheimer's disease.
The investigators also found that 36 percent of participants who did moderate exercise and used a computer had normal memory function, compared with about 20 percent of those who did not exercise or use a computer.
Moderate exercise included brisk walking, hiking, aerobics, strength training, golfing without a golf cart, swimming, doubles tennis, yoga, martial arts, weightlifting and using exercise machines, the authors explained in a Mayo Clinic news release.
"The aging of baby boomers is projected to lead to dramatic increases in the prevalence of dementia," study author Dr. Yonas Geda, a physician scientist at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, said in the news release. "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."
Although the study uncovered an association between combined exercise and computer use and better memory function, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.