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Physical activity and enhanced fitness to improve cognitive function in older people without known cognitive impairment

Angevaren M, Aufdemkampe G, Verhaar H, Aleman A, Vanhees L
Published Online: 
16 July 2008

Physical activity is beneficial for healthy ageing. It may also help maintain good cognitive function in older age. Aerobic activity improves cardiovascular fitness, but it is not known whether this sort of fitness is necessary for improved cognitive function.

Eleven studies of aerobic physical activity programmes for healthy people over the age of 55 years have been included in this review. Eight of these 11 studies reported that aerobic exercise interventions resulted in increased fitness of the trained group and an improvement in at least one aspect of cognitive function. The largest effects were on cognitive speed, auditory and visual attention. However, the cognitive functions which improved were not the same in each study and the majority of comparisons yielded no significant results.

The data are insufficient to show that the improvements in cognitive function which can be attributed to physical exercise are due to improvements in cardiovascular fitness.