Complex Mental and Physical Activity in Older Women and Cognitive Performance: A 6-month Randomized Controlled Trial

Department of Psychiatry, Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin CBF, Eschenallee 3, D-14050 Berlin, Germany.
The Journals of Gerontology Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences (Impact Factor: 5.42). 04/2010; 65(6):680-8. DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glq053
Source: PubMed


Several reports suggest beneficial impacts of either physical or mental activity on cognitive function in old age. However, the differential effects of complex mental and physical activities on cognitive performance in humans remain to be clarified.
This randomized controlled trial evaluates a cognitive and a physical standardized 6-month activity intervention (3 x 1.5 h/wk) conducted in Berlin (Germany). Two hundred fifty nine healthy women aged 70-93 years were randomized to a computer course (n = 92), an exercise course (n = 91), or a control group (n = 76), of whom 230 completed the 6-month assessment. Group differences in change over a period of 6 months in episodic memory (story recall, possible range, 0-21; word recall, possible range, 0-16), executive control (working memory, ie, time quotient of Trail Making Tests B/A), and verbal fluency were evaluated by analyses of covariance (intention to treat) adjusting for baseline, fluid intelligence, and educational level.
In contrast to the control group, both the exercise group, DeltaM (SD) = 2.09 (2.66), p < .001, and the computer group, DeltaM (SD) =1.89 (2.88), p < .001, showed improved delayed story recall. They maintained performance in delayed word recall and working memory (time measure) as opposed to the control group that showed a decline, DeltaM (SD) = -0.91 (2.15), p = .001, and DeltaM (SD) = 0.24 (0.68), p = .04, respectively.
In healthy older women, participation in new stimulating activities contributes to cognitive fitness and might delay cognitive decline. Exercise and computer classes seem to generate equivalent beneficial effects.

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    • "Several studies have shown that regular physical activity can lead to the enhancement of neuropsychological functions, demonstrating an association between a greater aerobic capacity and improvements in these functions (Angevaren et al. 2007; Langlois et al. 2013; Klusmann et al. 2010; Sofi et al. 2011; Hamer and Chida 2009). Nevertheless, there are other studies that have not found a significant association between neuropsychological functions and physical activity (Denkinger et al. 2012) Despite the controversies, epidemiological studies suggest that moderately active individuals are at a reduced risk of suffering from mental disorders compared to sedentary individuals; thus, physical exercise provides both physical and neuropsychological benefits (Vaughan et al. 2012), and physically active individuals most likely have faster cognitive processing speeds (Langlois et al. 2013) However, it is unclear which activities are the most important for neuropsychological maintenance; beyond physical exercise, significant effects have been reported for intellectual stimulation (Hultsch et al. 1999), social engagement, and leisure activities (Wang et al. 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: It has been suggested that leisure activity and physical exercise can be a protective factor for neuropsychological functions and are associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of physical exercise and leisure on the neuropsychological functions of healthy older adults. The sample was composed of 51 sedentary female volunteers who were 60-70 years old and were distributed into three groups: A-control, B-leisure, and C-training. Volunteers were submitted to a physical and neuropsychological assessment at baseline and after 6 months. Groups A and B were monitored longitudinally three times a week. Group C improved their neuropsychological functioning and oxygen consumption compared to groups A and B (p = <0.05). The neuropsychological functions of groups A and B were significantly worse after 6 months of monitoring (p = <0.05). The data suggest that physical exercise improves neuropsychological functioning, although leisure activities may also improve this functioning. Thus, an aerobic physical fitness program can partially serve as a non-medication alternative for maintaining and improving these functions in older adults; however, leisure activities should also be considered.
    Age 08/2015; 37(4):9815. DOI:10.1007/s11357-015-9815-8 · 3.45 Impact Factor
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    • "To date, several types of cognitive trainings are available. Several programs are aimed at improving memory (Richmond et al., 2011; Dresler et al., 2013), learning (Bailey et al., 2010), attention (Mozolic et al., 2011), executive functions (Basak et al., 2008), fluid intelligence (Jaeggi et al., 2008), mnemonic techniques, or global cognition (Klusmann et al., 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: Brain aging and aging-related neurodegenerative disorders are major health challenges faced by modern societies. Brain aging is associated with cognitive and functional decline and represents the favourable background for the onset and development of dementia. Brain aging is associated with early and subtle anatomo-functional physiological changes that often precede the appearance of clinical signs of cognitive decline. Neuroimaging approaches unveiled the functional correlates of these alterations and helped in the identification of therapeutic targets that can be potentially useful in counteracting age-dependent cognitive decline. A growing body of evidence supports the notion that cognitive stimulation and aerobic training can preserve and enhance operational skills in elderly individuals as well as reduce the incidence of dementia. This review aims at providing an extensive and critical overview of the most recent data that support the efficacy of non-pharmacological and pharmacological interventions aimed at enhancing cognition and brain plasticity in healthy elderly individuals as well as delaying the cognitive decline associated with dementia.
    Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience 09/2014; 8:153. DOI:10.3389/fnsys.2014.00153
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    • "A second possibility to enhance cognitive functions in aging is formal cognitive training that focuses either on one domain only, for example memory (Klingberg et al., 2002; Jaeggi et al., 2008), attention (Green and Bavelier, 2003), visual search (Becic et al., 2008), dual task (Bherer et al., 2005), or task switching (Minear and Shah, 2008; Karbach and Kray, 2009). In the earlier studies the training effects were indeed restricted to the trained function and did not transfer to other functions or daily activities (e.g., Willis and Schaie, 1986; Ball et al., 2002; Dahlin et al., 2009) while other reports showed also transfer effects to non-trained functions (e.g., Gopher et al., 1994; Klingberg et al., 2005; Willis et al., 2006; Ball et al., 2007; Caserta et al., 2007; Basak et al., 2008; Cassavaugh and Kramer, 2009; Edwards et al., 2009; Karbach and Kray, 2009; Klusmann et al., 2010; Jaeggi et al., 2011). As claimed by Kramer and Morrow (in press) and Hertzog et al. (2008) it may be important to design cognitive training interventions that are not limited to a single process (such as reasoning or processing speed) but instead incorporate a number of processes in the training program in order to maximize the general training gains. "

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