Although the collective scientific analysis of the concept of “brain fitness” — which contends that regular mental exercise leads to better long-term mental health — can be inconclusive, numerous manufacturers are embracing the concept by integrating physical fitness machines with mental exercise components. “Some older-adult and dementia researchers are realizing that cognitive function activities such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku or regular reading can have a positive impact on maintaining neurons,” says McCall. “The thinking is, if you don’t use your brain on a regular basis, like any muscle, it will atrophy.”
To that end, makers of brain fitness programs have teamed up with makers of exercise equipment – “The NeuroActive BrainBike” to embrace the mind-body connection. One recumbent bike product, for example, offers users 22 mental exercises — such as memory of names and faces, arithmetic and visual-spatial skills — designed to stimulate different parts of the brain. Users navigate the exercises with a wireless mouse, pedaling all the while.
“When you look at the research, it shows that a huge issue on most older adults’ minds is losing their cognitive abilities, right behind losing their independence and health,” says Milner. “Those do go hand in hand.”
McCall cautions facility operators to remember that equipment selection is only one aspect of attracting older adult populations. “They want the equipment to feel comfortable,” he says. “But just as important, they want to feel comfortable in the overall environment. Is the facility clean? Is the equipment in good condition? Are there people to answer questions? Is the music appropriate?”
All of those types of questions, agrees Milner, are important in assessing whether a fitness center is accommodating to older users. “Over the years, the 65-and-up market has been fairly flat — as have the rest of them, by the way,” Milner contends. “I would argue that part of the reason it’s flat is because we haven’t presented fitness and fitness equipment in a manner that resonates with enough of this audience.”
Athletic Business [read full article]