Improvement of cognitive function by mental and/or individualized aerobic training in healthy elderly subjects

Int J Sports Med. 2002 Aug;23(6):415-21. doi: 10.1055/s-2002-33735.


The aim of this study was to compare the effects of aerobic and mental training on cognitive function and to determine if the association of the two techniques shows better results. Thirty-two healthy elderly subjects (60 - 76 years) were assigned to one of four groups: aerobic training, mental training, combined aerobic and mental training and a control group. All subjects took two cognitive tests and an incremental exercise test before and after the training period. The intensity of exercise was individualized at the heart rate corresponding to the ventilatory threshold of each subject. After two months, the control group showed no alteration in physiological and cognitive variables. After the training period, the results showed a significant improvement in VO(2)max (F = 4.45, DF = 1, p < 0.05) of 12 % and 11 % in aerobic training and combined aerobic and mental training groups, respectively. Logical memory (F = 4.31, DF = 1, p < 0.05), as well as paired associates learning scores (F = 5.47, DF = 1, p < 0.05) and memory quotient (F = 6.52, DF = 1, p < 0.01) were significantly improved in the three trained groups. The mean difference in memory quotient between pre and post training was significantly higher in the combined aerobic and mental training group compared to aerobic training or mental training groups (F = 11.60, DF = 3, p < 0.001). We conclude that the specific aerobic training and mental training used in this study could induce the same degree of improvement in cognitive function and that combined training seemed to lead to greater effects than either technique alone.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Education and Training*