A 12-Week Physical and Cognitive Exercise Program Can Improve Cognitive Function and Neural Efficiency in Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2015 Jul;63(7):1355-63. doi: 10.1111/jgs.13481. Epub 2015 Jun 26.


Objectives: To investigate whether a 12-week physical and cognitive exercise program can improve cognitive function and brain activation efficiency in community-dwelling older adults.

Design: Randomized controlled trial.

Setting: Kyoto, Japan.

Participants: Community-dwelling older adults (N = 48) were randomized into an exercise group (n = 24) and a control group (n = 24).

Intervention: Exercise group participants received a weekly dual task-based multimodal exercise class in combination with pedometer-based daily walking exercise during the 12-week intervention phase. Control group participants did not receive any intervention and were instructed to spend their time as usual during the intervention phase.

Measurements: The outcome measures were global cognitive function, memory function, executive function, and brain activation (measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging) associated with visual short-term memory.

Results: Exercise group participants had significantly greater postintervention improvement in memory and executive functions than the control group (P < .05). In addition, after the intervention, less activation was found in several brain regions associated with visual short-term memory, including the prefrontal cortex, in the exercise group (P < .001, uncorrected).

Conclusion: A 12-week physical and cognitive exercise program can improve the efficiency of brain activation during cognitive tasks in older adults, which is associated with improvements in memory and executive function.

Keywords: cognitive improvement; fMRI; physical and cognitive exercise program; randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Japan
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Walking / physiology*