Aerobic exercise may strengthen memory and thinking skills in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a small study suggests.
Mild cognitive impairment
People with mild cognitive impairment are at increased risk for Alzheimer's disease.
The study included 16 people, average age 63, who did aerobic workouts such as on a treadmill, stationary bike or elliptical training. They worked out four times a week for six months. There was also a control group of 19 people, average age 67, who did stretching exercises four times a week for six months but no aerobic activity.
All of the participants had mild cognitive impairment. After six months, brain scans revealed that those in the aerobic exercise group had greater increases in brain volume than those in the stretching group, the researchers said.
Those in the exercise group also showed significant improvement in thinking and memory after six months, while those in the stretching group did not, according to the researchers.
Remarkable change in brain
The study was to be presented at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting, in Chicago. Research presented at medical meetings should be considered preliminary if it hasn't been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"Even over a short period of time, we saw aerobic exercise lead to a remarkable change in the brain," lead investigator Laura Baker said in a RSNA news release. Baker is an associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at the Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
"Any type of exercise can be beneficial. If possible, aerobic activity may create potential benefits for higher cognitive functioning," said study co-author Jeongchul Kim, a researcher also from Wake Forest.