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Blog #8 Both Physical and Cognitive Exercises may be the key?!

I would like to share with you this research report from Canada on exercise, cognitive training, and vitamin D *1.

175 people (mean age 73.1 years, 86 women) over the age of 60 with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) participated in this experiment. First, these participants were divided into five groups to examine the effects of exercise, cognitive training, and vitamin D over a 20-week period. Group 1 performed aerobic-resistance exercise, cognitive training, and vitamin D intake. Group 2 did aerobic-resistance exercise, cognitive training, and placebo vitamin D intake. Group 3 performed aerobic-resistance exercise, sham cognitive training, and vitamin D intake. Group 4 did aerobic-resistance exercise, sham cognitive training, and placebo vitamin D intake. The final group, Group 5, was the control group and performed balance-toning exercise, sham cognitive training, and placebo vitamin D intake. Participants were assessed for cognitive function three times: at baseline, 6-month point, and 12-month point. And of the 175 participants, 133 (76%) remained throughout the follow-ups.

Participants in this experiment performed cognitive training with tablets for 30 minutes each time (real training or sham cognitive training) and 60 minutes of exercise (aerobic-resistance exercise or balance-toning exercise) in groups 3 times a week for a total of 20 weeks. All participants received either real or placebo vitamin D three times per week (10,000 IU).

The real cognitive training was visual-motor training related to memory and attention, and the level of difficulty increased over time. Sham cognitive training was either touristic search or video watching. Aerobic-resistance exercises were programs specifically designed for older adults, with progressively increasing volume and intensity. The balance-toning exercises were a workout that did not progress in volume or intensity. Both types of training were properly supervised by instructors.

As a result, groups that performed aerobic-resistance exercise had better cognitive function scores compared to Group 5, the control at 6 -month follow up. And what is even more interesting is that the groups that did both aerobic-resistance exercise and cognitive training (Group 1 and 2) had more clinically significant effects on cognitive function scores than the other groups. Groups 1, 2, and 3 did not revert to their pre-experimental levels when their cognitive function was reassessed at 12-month point. As for vitamin D intake, there was no effect at all.

In short, this research report suggests that adding cognitive training along with aerobic-resistance exercise may improve cognitive function in older adults with MCI.

More data is needed in the future, but if this program of physical exercise and cognitive training is firmly established, it is likely to be a safer and more reliable method than therapeutic drugs for older adults diagnosed with MCI or early Alzheimer's disease?!

As I introduced in this blog before, various Alzheimer's drugs have been developed, but there are still problems (price, availability, side effects, etc.). Perhaps, as this research report shows, incorporating both aerobic-resistance exercise and cognitive training may offer new hope for both prevention and treatment of dementia!? We will see…

By the way, I would like to talk about vitamin D, which was used in this study, in my next blog. Stay tuned!!


*1 Montero-Odasso M, Zou G, Speechley M, et al. Effects of Exercise Alone or Combined With Cognitive Training and Vitamin D Supplementation to Improve Cognition in Adults With Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open.2023;6(7):e2324465. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.24465

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