A complex multimodal activity intervention to reduce the risk of dementia in mild cognitive impairment--ThinkingFit: pilot and feasibility study for a randomized controlled trial

BMC Psychiatry. 2014 May 5;14:129. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-14-129.


Background: Dementia affects 35 million people worldwide and is currently incurable. Many cases may be preventable because regular participation in physical, mental and social leisure activities during middle age is associated with up to 47% dementia risk reduction. However, the majority of middle-aged adults are not active enough. MCI is therefore a clear target for activity interventions aimed at reducing dementia risk. An active lifestyle during middle age reduces dementia risk but it remains to be determined if increased activity reduces dementia risk when MCI is already evident. Before this can be investigated conclusively, complex multimodal activity programmes are required that (1) combine multiple health promoting activities, (2) engage people with MCI, and (3) result in sufficient adherence rates.

Methods: We designed the ThinkingFit programme to engage people with MCI in a complex intervention comprised of three activity components: physical activity, group-based cognitive stimulation (GCST) and individual cognitive stimulation (ICST). Engagement and adherence was promoted by applying specific psychological techniques to enhance behavioural flexibility in an early pre-phase and during the course of the intervention. To pilot the intervention, participants served as their own controls during a 6- to 12-week run-in period, which was followed by 12 weeks of activity intervention.

Results: Out of 212 MCI patients screened, 163 were eligible, 70 consented and 67 completed the intervention (mean age 74 years). Activity adherence rates were high: physical activity = 71%; GCST = 83%; ICST = 67%. Significant treatment effects (p < .05) were evident on physical health outcomes (decreased BMI and systolic blood pressure, [pre/post values of 26.3/25.9 kg/m2 and 145/136 mmHg respectively]), fitness (decreased resting and recovery heart rate [68/65 bpm and 75/69 bpm]), and cognition (improved working memory [5.3/6.3 items]).

Conclusions: We found satisfactory recruitment, retention and engagement rates, coupled with significant treatment effects in elderly MCI patients. It appears feasible to conduct randomized controlled trials of the dementia prevention potential of complex multimodal activity programmes like ThinkingFit.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov registration nr: NCT01603862; date: 17/5/2012.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / prevention & control*
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / therapy*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Risk Reduction Behavior

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01603862