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Aerobic exercise–not diet or health education–seen to significantly improve executive functions among older sedentary adults

Aer­o­bic Exer­cise May Be Key to Bet­ter Neu­rocog­ni­tion (Psy­chol­o­gy Today):

Duke Uni­ver­si­ty researchers recent­ly report­ed that just six months of aer­o­bic exercise—for 35 min­utes, three times a week—may improve exec­u­tive func­tion in old­er adults who have cog­ni­tive impair­ments. Before they began doing aer­o­bic exer­cise, the pre­vi­ous­ly seden­tary study par­tic­i­pants had dif­fi­cul­ty con­cen­trat­ing, mak­ing deci­sions, and remem­ber­ing

At the begin­ning of this study, par­tic­i­pants were ran­dom­ly divid­ed into four groups: (1) aer­o­bic exer­cise alone, (2) DASH diet alone, (3) both aer­o­bic exer­cise and DASH diet, and (4) health edu­ca­tion infor­ma­tion via the tele­phone.

After ana­lyz­ing the results from the four dif­fer­ent groups, the researchers found that par­tic­i­pants who exer­cised reg­u­lar­ly showed sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments in their think­ing skills com­pared to those who did not exer­cise.”

The Study:

Lifestyle and neu­rocog­ni­tion in old­er adults with cog­ni­tive impair­ments: A ran­dom­ized tri­al (Neu­rol­o­gy). From the abstract:

Objec­tive: To deter­mine the inde­pen­dent and addi­tive effects of aer­o­bic exer­cise (AE) and the Dietary Approach­es to Stop Hyper­ten­sion (DASH) diet on exec­u­tive func­tion­ing in adults with cog­ni­tive impair­ments with no demen­tia (CIND) and risk fac­tors for car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease (CVD).

Meth­ods: A 2‑by‑2 fac­to­r­i­al (exercise/no exer­cise and DASH diet/no DASH diet) ran­dom­ized clin­i­cal tri­al was con­duct­ed in 160 seden­tary men and women (age >55 years) with CIND and CVD risk fac­tors. Par­tic­i­pants were ran­dom­ly assigned to 6 months of AE, DASH diet nutri­tion­al coun­sel­ing, a com­bi­na­tion of both AE and DASH, or health edu­ca­tion (HE). The pri­ma­ry end­point was a pre­spec­i­fied com­pos­ite mea­sure of exec­u­tive func­tion; sec­ondary out­comes includ­ed mea­sures of language/verbal flu­en­cy, mem­o­ry, and rat­ings on the mod­i­fied Clin­i­cal Demen­tia Rat­ing Scale.

Con­clu­sions: These pre­lim­i­nary find­ings show that AE pro­motes improved exec­u­tive func­tion­ing in adults at risk for cog­ni­tive decline.

The Study in Context:

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