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Researchers Find Ping-Pong Can Slow Effects Of Dementia, Alzheimer's

CARMICHAEL (CBS13) — It's a new spin on battling a devastating disease—table tennis therapy.

Very few sports work the brain as much as the game of ping-pong.

The smashes come at a rapid pace for members of the Sacramento Table Tennis Club. But even when they miss their mark, they're right on target when it comes to taking part in an activity that experts say forces out brains to work a little hard, reducing our risk of getting dementia or Alzheimer's.

"All of this happening at once increases the oxygen, increases the eye hand coordination and helps the brain create these pathway," said dementia expert Dr. Teri Tift.

The theory is playing the game can actually make a part of the brain that shrinks in Alzheimer's and dementia patients bigger instead.

In fact, researchers have found it works five different areas of the brain at the same time.

For older players like Kenneth Renfrow, holding court in the rec room of the Eskaton Village Carmichael Retirement Center, picking up a paddle is a no-brainer.

"I think that's one of the benefits of ping-pong specifically and also just keeping active generally," he said.

Researchers also say it can reduce an Alzheimer's patient's reliance on medication.

That's more than good news when you consider more than 5.4 million people in the country had Alzheimer's, while more than 200,000 have what's called younger onset Alzheimer's, with some as young as 40.

It may be the last thing on the minds of younger players, but for others, it's very much top of mind as they try and put their own spin on the aging process, hoping for a net gain on the disease.

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