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Studies Find Exercise Helps Cognitive Function in Elderly

Last Updated: January 15, 2010.

Regular exercise benefits cognitive functioning in the elderly, according to a pair of studies in the January issue of the Archives of Neurology.

FRIDAY, Jan. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Regular exercise benefits cognitive functioning in the elderly, according to a pair of studies in the January issue of the Archives of Neurology.

Laura D. Baker, Ph.D., of the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, and colleagues randomized 16 men and 17 women aged 55 to 85 years who had mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to a six-month program of either high-intensity aerobics or stretching only. The subjects underwent glucose metabolism tests, treadmill tests, fat assessments, and cognitive tests at baseline, three and six months. The women in the aerobic group improved executive function, including selective attention, search efficiency, processing speed and cognitive flexibility, while the men in the aerobic group improved only on Trails B cognitive performance (ordering alphanumeric stimuli).

Yonas E. Geda, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and colleagues recruited 1,324 subjects without dementia and surveyed them on physical exercise. The subjects were assessed by an expert panel that found 198 had MCI and 1,126 had normal cognition. Associations between cognition and self-reported exercise found there was reduced risk of MCI in both men and women for any frequency of moderate exercise (odds ratios, 0.61 for ages 50 to 65 years and 0.68 over 65 years). Light exercise and vigorous exercise were not associated with decreased MCI risk.

"In this population-based case-control study, any frequency of moderate exercise performed in midlife or late life was associated with a reduced odds of having MCI," Geda and colleagues write.

An author in the second study reported serving on a data safety monitoring board, being a clinical investigator and consultant for pharmaceutical companies, and being a compensated editor of a medical journal.

Abstract - Baker
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Abstract - Geda
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