Tribune Print Share Text

Multitasking after age 65? No problem!

Created date

July 20th, 2015

Conventional wisdom holds that if you do two tasks at once, neither will be done properly. Now, a new study challenges this notion.

Researchers from the University of Florida tested a group of healthy seniors and a group with Parkinson’s disease. Both groups were given increasingly difficult cognitive tasks to perform while pedaling on a stationary bicycle. The researchers intended to measure how much each task would suffer while being performed simultaneously. 

The results came as a surprise. Both groups of study participants increased their cycling speed while performing very well on the cognitive exercises. In fact, their cycling speed was about 25% greater than their starting speed when they worked on the easier tasks. They slowed down as tasks became more difficult, but never went below their starting speed. 

As researchers expected, the Parkinson’s group didn’t pedal as fast as the healthy group because of the brain impairment that occurs with the disease; nevertheless, they followed the same overall pattern as the healthy group.

These results have significant implications for healthier living. The researchers noted that study participants weren’t aware that their cycling speeds increased. Thus, combining easy mental tasks with exercising might lead to better fitness and a sharper brain.