Posted by Sarah Barry
When riding the bus downtown, students may give little thought to the Embury Apartments and those who live there, but Exercise Science Professor Paul Arciero has spent the last three years working with this community to discover the effects of interactive exercise on the elderly.
Arciero's research focuses on groups he feels are some of the most in need of nutritional and physiological aid. His most recent research focuses on the elderly and interactive exercise. Arciero's ongoing research focuses on a physical and nutritional intervention for healthy and diseased populations.
While Arciero focuses on nutrition, he has collaborated with friend and Union College Professor Cay Anderson-Hanley, who works in Union's Psychology department. The research combines the two fields to explore the effects of interactive exercise on brain function in the elderly.
"The unique feature of our study was that we're interested in simultaneously examining the physiological and psychological effects of the cyber-cycling," Arciero said.
Arciero and Anderson-Hanley were honored with a Robert Wood Johnson grant, which allowed them to complete the research. They received one of 11 grants out of 120 applicants. The findings from the research were published this January in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The researchers drew participants from eight local and regional independent but communal living facilities for older adults. The recent publication explains that dementia cases could reach 100 million by the year 2050 rendering the findings increasingly relevant. The researchers installed traditional exercise bikes and exer-gaming interactive cycles and compared the progress of the control group, who exercised on the traditional stationary bikes and the participants who used cyber-cycles.
"The greatest thrill for me was working with a unique group of independent living seniors, it is one of the fastest growing segments of our population, and we were able see them really come alive in just three months and observe a remarkable change in their appearance. When we first enrolled them in the study, some were a bit set in their ways and resistant, but by the end, they were glowing" Arciero said.
Results showed a significant improvement in executive function and a 23 percent reduction in of risk Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) suggesting that interactive exercise yields greater benefit than traditional exercise alone.
Both Skidmore and Union College students were involved in the research process and Arciero expressed his gratitude for the collaboration. "I was able to collaborate professionally with other outstanding researchers, but the greater outcome was the student involvement from both institutions on this publication" Arciero said. Arciero's research is yet another example of student-professor research collaboration on campus.
Arciero's research also bridges a gap between the Skidmore and Saratoga Springs communities. "The project was rewarding in the educational experience for Skidmore, but it is also great community outreach. Science was able to provide something useful to the larger population. The public health benefit applies to everyone in that age group," Arciero said.
Arciero will also continue his research with Anderson-Hanley on exer-gaming. "The next step is to specifically determine the most salient feature that produced these cognitive changes. I expect it will be a combination of gaming features that are responsible. What's so exciting about this research is there are a number of other researchers who are pursuing similar questions. In the end, the collective and collaborative approach by all the scientists should provide important answers of how combined exercise and gaming may enhance brain health," Arciero said.
Arciero will also continue his research of at least 25 years, which has culminated in a dietary and exercise protocol to improve overall health. "The program is designed to be incorporated into the daily routine. It is not a complete overhaul or a disruption. The true benefit is when you incorporate simple lifestyle strategies one at a time where you can work with it for a week alone and let your lifestyle adopt it," Arciero said. For more information on Arcieo's research visit www.drpaulsprotocol.com.
Arciero's office in the Williamson Sports and Recreation Center lies distant from the bustle of main campus, but he continually expressed his gratitude to both the Saratoga and Skidmore community, and urged community members to be aware of future opportunities to participate in his research. "We get to do every day what we love and what we're passionate about," Arciero said.