Moderate Exercise Improves Cognitive Function in Healthy Elderly People: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial

Carta G, Cossu G, Pintus E, Pintus E, Zaccheddu R, Callia O, Conti G, Pintus M, Gonzalez CIA, Massidda MV, Mura G, Sardu C, Contu P, Minerba L, Demontis R, Pau M, Finco G, et al
Moderate Exercise Improves Cognitive Function in Healthy Elderly People: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial.
Clinical Practice and epidemiology in mental health, September 2021 2021;17:75-80
DOI: 10.2174/1745017902117010075

Background: Physical activity in the elderly is recommended by international guidelines to protect against cognitive decline and functional impairment.

Objective: This Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) was set up to verify whether medium-intensity physical activity in elderly people living in the community is effective in improving cognitive performance.

Design: RCT with parallel and balanced large groups.

Setting:Academic university hospital and Olympic gyms.

Subjects:People aged 65 years old and older of both genders living at home holding a medical certificate for suitability in non-competitive physical activity.

Methods:Participants were randomized to a 12-week, 3 sessions per week moderate physical activity program or to a control condition focused on cultural and recreational activities in groups of the same size and timing as the active intervention group. The active phase integrated a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic exercises, including drills of “life movements”, strength and balance. The primary outcome was: any change in Addenbrooke's Cognitive Examination Revised (ACE-R) and its subscales.

Results:At the end of the trial, 52 people completed the active intervention, and 53 people completed the control condition. People in the active intervention improved on the ACE-R (ANOVA: F(1;102)=4.32, p=0.040), and also showed better performances on the memory (F(1;102)=5.40 p=0.022) and visual-space skills subscales of the ACE-R (F(1;102)=4.09 p=0.046).

Conclusion:A moderate-intensity exercise administered for a relatively short period of 12 weeks is capable of improving cognitive performance in a sample of elderly people who live independently in their homes.

Clinical Trials Registration No: NCT03858114

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