Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: NUTRITION, EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGY, AND SARCOPENIA

Location: Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging

Title: Changes in cognitive function in a randomized trial of physical activity: results of the lifestyle interventions and independence for elders pilot study

Authors
item Williamson, Jeff -
item Espeland, Mark -
item Kritchevsky, Stephen -
item Newman, Anne -
item King, Abby -
item Pahor, Marco -
item Guralnik, Jack -
item Pruitt, Leslie -
item Miller, Michael -

Submitted to: Journal of Gerontology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 16, 2008
Publication Date: June 1, 2009
Citation: Williamson, J.D., Espeland, M., Kritchevsky, S.B., Newman, A.B., King, A.C., Pahor, M., Guralnik, J.M., Pruitt, L.A., Miller, M.E. 2009. Changes in cognitive function in a randomized trial of physical activity: results of the lifestyle interventions and independence for elders pilot study. Journal of Gerontology. 64A(6):688-694.

Interpretive Summary: As the life expectancy in the United States has continued to rise, the maintenance of physical and cognitive independence of older Americans has emerged as a major clinical and public health priority. A critical factor in an older person’s ability to function independently is mobility, or the ability to move without assistance. Cognitive impairment is an important contributor to mobility. Limited evidence exists regarding the impact of physical exercise on cognitive function. We report results of a pilot study to provide estimates of the relative impact of physical activity (PA) on 1-year changes in cognitive function and to characterize relationships between changes in mobility disability and changes in cognition in older adults at increased risk for disability. We conducted the "Lifestyle Interventions and Independence For Elders-LIFE" pilot study. Sedentary persons (102) at increased risk for disability (aged 70 – 89 years) were randomized to moderate-intensity PA or health education. Participants were administered several tests of their cognitive function at baseline and 1 year. Although there were no changes in any of these measures of cognitive function, there were association between the improvements in cognitive scores and improvements in physical function. These results provide further support for the benefits of exercise on cognitive function in older adults.

Technical Abstract: Background. Cognitive impairment is an important contributor to disability. Limited clinical trial evidence exists regarding the impact of physical exercise on cognitive function (CF). We report results of a pilot study to provide estimates of the relative impact of physical activity (PA) on 1-year changes in cognitive outcomes and to characterize relationships between changes in mobility disability and changes in cognition in older adults at increased risk for disability. Methods. Sedentary persons (102) at increased risk for disability (aged 70 – 89 years) were randomized to moderate-intensity PA or health education. Participants were administered the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST), Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), modified Stroop test, and Modified Mini-Mental State Examination at baseline and 1 year. Results. Group differences were not significant but improvements in cognitive scores were associated with improvements in physical function. Specifically, the DSST significantly correlated with change in the Short Physical Performance Battery score ( r = .38, p = .0002), in chair stand score ( r = .26, p = .012), in balance score ( r = .21, p = .046), and in 400-m gait speed ( r = .15, p = .147). Change recall on the RAVLT and in the Stroop test was also positively correlated with changes in chair stand and balance, respectively. Conclusions. These results provide further support for the benefi ts of exercise on CF in older adults. An adequately powered clinical trial of PA involving older adults at increased risk for cognitive disability is needed to expand the indicationsfor prescribing exercise for prevention of decline in brain function.

Last Modified: 7/23/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page