There’s been a lot of talk about changing your diet to ward off dementia and improve cognition, but a new paper indicates changing your hobbies could help too. Researchers analyzed data from 17 clinical trials to see what effects fitness video games had on cognition. A total of 926 people took part in all of the studies.

The team found that overall cognition benefited from playing these games. Attention, visuospatial abilities, which help you identify spatial relations between objects, and executive functioning, which helps you make everyday decisions, got extra boosts.

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“As people age, their brain functioning, such as memory, concentration and spatial awareness naturally decline,” said study co-author and researcher at the University of Manchester, Joseph Firth, in a statement. However, Firth and the rest of the team found that certain video games could help combat these signs of aging.

“Physically-active video games have, according to our research, greater impact on brain functioning than regular physical activity alone – suggesting that their benefits are more than just moving around,” he said.

Further research needs to be done, but exergames, as they’re known, may have a significant impact on helping those with neurological problems.

“Various neurological conditions such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and dementia can also impede people’s cognitive functioning and reduce their ability to function day to day,” Firth said.

As the authors explain in the paper, “ Exergames are considered as interactive video-games which require the player to produce physical body movements in order to complete set tasks or actions, in response to visual cues.” Examples of these include popular systems like Microsoft Xbox Kinect.

Previous research has indicated that using fitness video games might not be as beneficial as some hope.

CNN reports that while many agree that playing these games are better than, say, watching hours of Netflix, getting outside to run or participate in a game of basketball are still the preferred choice.

"In most cases you'll find it's better than watching television, or as a replacement for other sedentary behaviors, but most (studies) agree it should not replace play and sport activities," Brian Biagioli, who was the executive director of the National Council on Strength and Fitness, told the outlet in an e-mail.

Wei Peng, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard who conducted a study in 2011 about the benefits of exergames, said that they are most beneficial to older adults.

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"This is a good tool for them," Peng told CNN. "They really cannot engage in vigorous levels of activity. They may go for walks but in the wintertime it's kind of hard, so video games are especially good."

This new study could open up additional treatments and preventative measures for senior citizens hoping to retain their cognitive skills.

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