Exercise may be associated with a small benefit for elderly people who already have memory and thinking problems, according to new research published in Neurology®, a medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The research involved people with vascular cognitive impairment, which is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.
“Studies have shown that exercise can help reduce the risk of developing memory problems, but few studies have looked at whether it can help people who already have these problems get better or keep from getting worse,” said study author Teresa Liu-Ambrose, PT, PhD, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
The study involved 70 people with an average age of about 74 who had mild vascular cognitive impairment. Half of the participants took part in one-hour exercise classes three times a week for six months. The other half received information each month about vascular cognitive impairment and a healthy diet, but no information on physical activity.
All of the participants were tested before the study started, at the end of the study and again six months later on their overall thinking skills, executive function skills such as planning and organizing and how well they could complete their daily activities.
Those who exercised had a small improvement on the test of overall thinking skills compared to those who did not exercise.