Exercise Aids Cognitive Function

Almost any amount of moderate physical activity in mid- or late life reduced the odds of mild cognitive impairment by 30% to 40% in an ongoing cohort study, researchers reported.Men and women derived similar benefit, which was limited to moderate exercise — not light or vigorous physical activity, investigators wrote in the January Archives of Neurology.

“Our findings contribute to the growing body of literature that indicates the potentially beneficial relationship between physical exercise and cognition,” Yonas E. Geda, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues concluded. “A future population-based cohort study is needed to confirm whether physical exercise is associated with decreased risk of incident mild cognitive impairment.”

Meanwhile, a small, separate interventional study described in the same journal showed that six months of high-intensity aerobic exercise was associated with significant improvement in executive function in older women at increased risk of cognitive decline, but not in older men.

Mild cognitive impairment confers a five- to 10-fold increased risk of dementia compared with normal cognition. Observational studies have shown that physical activity may protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and some evidence suggests that exercise for individuals with mild cognitive impairment offers some protection, too, the authors wrote.

Geda and colleagues continued exploration of the association between physical activity and cognitive impairment with an evaluation of the effect of physical activity in midlife, approximately the age of onset for mild cognitive impairment. Data for the study came from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging.

The study included 1,324 participants who completed a standardized questionnaire about physical activity. Their median age was about 80, and none of the participants exhibited signs of dementia at baseline.

Investigators assessed the frequency and intensity of physical activity as reported by each participant.

  • Light exercise: bowling, leisurely walking, stretching, slow dancing, and golfing using a cart.
  • Moderate exercise: brisk walking, hiking, aerobics, strength training, swimming, tennis doubles, yoga, martial arts, weight lifting, moderate use of exercise machines, and golfing without use of a cart.
  • Vigorous exercise: jogging, backpacking, bicycling uphill, tennis singles, racquetball, skiing, and intense or extended use of exercise machines.

The neuropsychologic evaluation consisted of nine tests that assessed memory, executive function, language, and visuospatial skills. Continue reading Exercise Aids Cognitive Function