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Physical Activity May Preserve Cognitive Function in Elderly

Last Updated: January 26, 2010.

Regular physical activity can help an older person preserve their cognitive function and mental health, according to a pair of studies in the Jan. 25 Archives of Internal Medicine.

TUESDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Regular physical activity can help an older person preserve their cognitive function and mental health, according to a pair of studies in the Jan. 25 Archives of Internal Medicine.

In one study, Thorleif Etgen, M.D., of the Technische Universität München in Munich, Germany, and colleagues followed a cohort of 3,903 adults older than 55 years for two years and analyzed the relationship between their level of activity and cognitive function on the Six-Item Cognitive Impairment Test. After two years, the subjects who reported moderate or high physical activity were found to be at reduced risk for cognitive impairment (odds ratios, 0.57 and 0.54, respectively) compared to those who reported no physical activity.

In another study, Arnaud Dechamps, Ph.D., of the University of Bordeaux in France, and colleagues randomized 160 subjects 65 years and older to participate in a tai chi program, a cognition-action program to develop communication skills, or usual care. Over 12 months, there was a non-significant decline in the activities of daily living scores in the usual-care group compared to the tai chi and cognition-action groups. However, the ability to walk, continence, and nutrition were better preserved in the two intervention groups, and the Neuropsychiatric Inventory scores were significantly worse in the usual-care group, while the intervention group's scores were unchanged or improved.

"Moderate or high physical activity is associated with a reduced incidence of cognitive impairment after two years in a large population-based cohort of elderly subjects," Etgen and colleagues conclude.

Abstract - Etgen
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Abstract - Dechamps
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