Does Physical Activity Affect Cognition?

Alan R. Jacobs, MD


November 10, 2015

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This is the Medscape Neurology Minute. I'm Dr Alan Jacobs.

Researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center have published a study[1] exploring the relationship between aerobic exercise dose and cognition. They randomly assigned underactive or sedentary participants without cognitive impairment into one of four groups: no-change controls and 75, 150, and 225 minutes/week of moderate-intensity, semi-supervised aerobic exercise for 26 weeks in a community setting.

Cognitive outcomes were latent residual scores derived from a battery of 16 cognitive tests assaying verbal memory, visuospatial processing, simple attention, set-shifting, and reasoning. Secondary outcomes were cardiorespiratory fitness, measured as peak oxygen consumption, and measures of functional health.

The results showed that cardiorespiratory fitness increased and perceived disability decreased in a dose-dependent manner across the four groups. When analysis was restricted to those who were most adherent to the protocol, simple attention improved equivalently across all exercise groups compared with controls, and a dose-response relationship was present for visuospatial processing. A clear dose-response relationship existed between exercise and cardiovascular fitness.

The authors concluded that an individual's cardiorespiratory fitness response was a better predictor of cognitive gains than exercise dose or duration. Thus, an individual's cardiovascular fitness may be an important therapeutic target for achieving cognitive benefits.

This has been the Medscape Neurology Minute. I'm Dr Alan Jacobs.


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