Aerobic exercise tied to better cognition in adults of all ages

  • Stern Y & al.
  • Neurology
  • 30 Jan 2019

  • curated by Susan London
  • Clinical Essentials
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Takeaway

  • 6 months of aerobic exercise improved executive function among adults aged 20-67 years, with greater benefit for older individuals.

Why this matters

  • General lack of interventions to slow or stop normal and pathologic age-related decline in cognition.

Key results

  • At 24 weeks, aerobic exercise yielded greater improvement vs control in executive function (β=0.237; P=.038).
  • Benefit increased with participant age (β=0.0184 SD/year; P=.028).
  • Relative to control, aerobic exercise improved executive function:
    • by 0.228 SD (95% CI, 0.007-0.448) at age 40 years and
    • by 0.596 SD (95% CI, 0.219-0.973) at age 60 years.
  • In adjusted analysis, individuals with ≥1 APOE ε4 allele benefited less from aerobic exercise (β=0.5129; P=.0346).
  • No significant difference for other 5 cognitive domains.
  • 3 adverse events (2 knee injuries, 1 bruising resulting from phlebotomy).

Study design

  • Community-based randomized controlled trial among 132 cognitively normal nonsmokers aged 20-67 years with below-median aerobic capacity.
  • Randomization: aerobic exercise (modality left to participant) vs control (stretching/toning), 4 times weekly for 6 months.
  • Main outcomes: cognitive function in 6 domains (executive function, episodic memory, processing speed, language, attention, working memory).
  • Funding: NIH.

Limitations

  • Smaller sample size.
  • Possible self-selection for trial.
  • Analyses not adjusted for multiple comparisons.

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