According to a new study, 12 weeks of physical plus mental activity improves cognitive function in inactive older adults.
The study by Deborah E. Barnes, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues included 126 inactive, community-dwelling older adults with cognitive complaints. All the individuals engaged in home-based mental activity (1 hour/per day, 3 days/per week) plus class-based physical activity (1 hour/per day, 3 days/per week) for 12 weeks and were assigned to either mental activity intervention (MA-I, intensive computer work); or mental activity control (MA-C, educational DVDs) plus exercise intervention (EX-1, aerobic) or exercise control (EX-C, stretching and toning). The study design meant there were four groups: MA-I/EX-I, MA-I/EX-C, MA-C/EX-1 and MA-C/EX-C.
Global cognitive scores improved significantly over time but did not differ between groups in the comparison between MA-I and MA-C (ignoring exercise), the comparison between EX-I and EX-C (ignoring mental activity), or across all four randomization groups, according to the study results.
"We found that cognitive scores improved significantly over the course of 12 weeks, but there were no significant differences between the intervention and active control groups. These results may suggest that in this study population, the amount of activity is more important than the type of activity, because all groups participated in both mental activity and exercise for [60 minutes/per day, three days/per week] for 12 weeks.
Alternatively, the cognitive improvements observed may be due to practice effects," the authors note.
The study has been published Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine, a JAMA Network publication.