Can a Virtual Bike Ride Help with Dementia?

By Michael Watson

Currently, there is no cure for serious mental illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease. However, certain technological advancements have provided new promising treatments which can mitigate and perhaps even reverse some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's and dementia. These treatments include virtual reality bike rides! While bike riding may sound like an unusual therapy for mental illness, it makes more sense than you might think. Learn more about how it can help.

The Brain & Body

Sometimes we forget about the relationships between our brains and our bodies. The brain sends signals to tell the body to move, and the body sends signals back to the brain to keep it informed. However, these are not the only benefits of connections between our brains and bodies.

Our memory is intertwined with our body and its movement. For example, our bodies remember how to do certain things that we have done many times before, which is referred to as muscle memory.

Because of this connection, doing physical activities can impact brain function. Riding a bike can perhaps jog a loved one's memory, helping them to recall things they used to do or other important information. When the body does something familiar, the brain might remember other familiar things.

The concept of memory linked to movement has been studied for years. This study shows that there is a beneficial link between exercise and brain health, showing that exercise stimulates cognitive health, leading to a stronger mind and improved memory and cognitive function. Other research has shown that "vigorous endurance exercise such as cycling can help to slow down many of the negative physiological changes that occur due to aging."

But does a virtual bike ride provide additional benefits?

Virtual Reality

Pairing biking or other physical activities with virtual reality (VR) stimulation further increases the positive effect on cognitive function. VR provides something for seniors to focus on during exercise, encouraging them to exercise regularly and for longer periods of time, leading to higher overall health and marked cognitive improvement.

In addition, VR makes a great distraction for seniors with dementia or Alzheimer's. Calming scenes can help seniors calm down and relax when they are in an agitated state. VR also provides a gateway to perform activities that seniors might not be able to perform on their own anymore—walks, bike rides, vacations. These experiences can help stimulate the brain and make seniors feel more comfortable and relaxed in an environment that they may not recognize anymore.  

While virtual bike rides may not cure mental ailments, they can improve the quality of life of your loved ones. In addition to this technology, there are many other devices that can help improve seniors' lives to help them stay happy and healthy. 

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Tags: Alzheimer's & Dementia, Senior Fitness