Background: Sub-cortical vascular ischaemia is the second most common etiology contributing to cognitive impairment in older adults, and is frequently under-diagnosed and under-treated. Although evidence is mounting that exercise has benefits for cognitive function among seniors, very few randomized controlled trials of exercise have been conducted in populations at high-risk for progression to dementia. Aerobic-based exercise training may be of specific benefit in delaying the progression of cognitive decline among seniors with vascular cognitive impairment by reducing key vascular risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome. Thus, we aim to carry out a proof-of-concept single-blinded randomized controlled trial primarily designed to provide preliminary evidence of efficacy aerobic-based exercise training program on cognitive and everyday function among older adults with mild sub-cortical ischaemic vascular cognitive impairment.
Methods/design: A proof-of-concept single-blinded randomized trial comparing a six-month, thrice-weekly, aerobic-based exercise training group with usual care on cognitive and everyday function. Seventy older adults who meet the diagnostic criteria for sub-cortical ischaemic vascular cognitive impairment as outlined by Erkinjuntti and colleagues will be recruited from a memory clinic of a metropolitan hospital. The aerobic-based exercise training will last for 6 months. Participants will be followed for an additional six months after the cessation of exercise training.
Discussion: This research will be an important first step in quantifying the effect of an exercise intervention on cognitive and daily function among seniors with sub-cortical ischaemic vascular cognitive impairment, a recognized risk state for progression to dementia. Exercise has the potential to be an effective, inexpensive, and accessible intervention strategy with minimal adverse effects. Reducing the rate of cognitive decline among seniors with sub-cortical ischaemic vascular cognitive impairment could preserve independent functioning and health related quality of life in this population. This, in turn, could lead to reduced health care resource utilization costs and avoidance of early institutional care.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01027858.