January 11, 2010
Exercise Helps With Mild Cognitive Impairment

Folks with mild cognitive impairment are helped by exercise.

Moderate physical activity performed in midlife or later appears to be associated with a reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment, whereas a six-month high-intensity aerobic exercise program may improve cognitive function in individuals who already have the condition, according to two reports in the January issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

The problem with this result is the (usually insurmountable) challenge of trying to get old folks to change their ways. Heck, try to get someone middle aged to take up regular exercise if they aren't already doing it. I predict low odds of success.

Old folks who are mildly cognitively impaired strike me as even less likely to change their ways than old folks who are still playing with a full deck of mental cards. I'd lay better odds for old folks who are living in facilities that have lots of other old folks around and exercise sessions hosted by trainers. If you can manage to convince an older loved one to get into regular exercise real benefits are probably awaiting.

Mild cognitive impairment is an intermediate state between the normal thinking, learning and memory changes that occur with age and dementia, according to background information in one of the articles. Each year, 10 percent to 15 percent of individuals with mild cognitive impairment will develop dementia, as compared with 1 percent to 2 percent of the general population. Previous studies in animals and humans have suggested that exercise may improve cognitive function.

In one article, Laura D. Baker, Ph.D., of the University of Washington School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, and colleagues report the results of a randomized, controlled clinical trial involving 33 adults with mild cognitive impairment (17 women, average age 70). A group of 23 were randomly assigned to an aerobic exercise group and exercised at high intensity levels under the supervision of a trainer for 45 to 60 minutes per day, four days per week. The control group of 10 individuals performed supervised stretching exercises according to the same schedule but kept their heart rate low. Fitness testing, body fat analysis, blood tests of metabolic markers and cognitive functions were assessed before, during and after the six-month trial.

A total of 29 participants completed the study. Overall, the patients in the high-intensity aerobic exercise group experienced improved cognitive function compared with those in the control group. These effects were more pronounced in women than in men, despite similar increases in fitness. The sex differences may be related to the metabolic effects of exercise, as changes to the body's use and production of insulin, glucose and the stress hormone cortisol differed in men and women.

I happen to live close enough to stores to walk to them. I walk for many errands. I think getting exercise while doing tasks you want to get done is a lot more sustainable way to get more exercise. If you can find higher exercise ways to do things that need doing then you can get real benefits.

If you live many miles from stores and don't have any high exercise chores that need doing then consider getting a high energy dog. The chore then becomes running the dog on a daily basis. Of course, people who let their dogs run free in a rural setting don't need to put them on leashes and run along with them. But most people live in areas where leashes are necessary. So let your dog serve as your personal trainer.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 January 11 08:01 PM  Aging Exercise Studies


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