Can exercise improve cognitive function in older adults?
- RRS Education
As any population ages, cognitive decline becomes more of an issue. Maintaining a physically active lifestyle has been shown to help reduce age-related cognitive declines and incidence of dementia. The most accepted hypothesis to explain this relationship postulates that neural and vascular adaptation to physical exercise promotes neurogenesis, angiogenesis, synaptic plasticity, decreased pro-inflammatory processes, and reduced cellular damage due to oxidative stress, all leading to improved cognitive function. Prior research has shown conflicting results, due in part to the use of restrictive inclusion criteria. Guidelines as to the type or amount of exercise that clinicians should be recommending to their patients are, therefore, urgently needed.
The authors of this study (published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine) performed a comprehensive meta-analysis with no limit on publication date or exercise mode in order to include a larger number of studies. Four key issues were addressed:
1. The effects of supervised exercise interventions, including aerobic, resistance, multicomponent, tai, chi, and yoga, on cognitive function;
2. The influence of variables including the duration, frequency, intensity, and length of exercise;
3. The differentiation of exercise effects on global cognition and aspects of cognition including attention, executive function, memory, and working memory; and
4. The impact of the study design, including the type of control group and baseline cognitive status of participants.