Exercise Plus Cognitive Performance Over and Above Exercise Alone in Subjects with Mild Cognitive Impairment

J Alzheimers Dis. 2016;50(1):19-25. doi: 10.3233/JAD-150194.


Background: Epidemiological studies highlight the relevance of regular exercise interventions to enhance or maintain neurocognitive function in subjects with cognitive impairments.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to ascertain the effect of aerobic exercise associated with cognitive enrichment on cognitive performance in subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Method: Eight participants with MCI (72 ± 2 years) were enrolled in a 9-month study that consisted of two 3-months experimental interventions separated by a training cessation period of 3 months. The interventions included either aerobic exercise alone or aerobic exercise combined with cognitive enrichment. The exercise program involved two 20-min cycling exercise bouts per week at an intensity corresponding to 60% of the heart rate reserve. Cognitive performance was assessed using a task of single reaction time (SRT) and an inhibition task (Go-no-Go) before, immediately after, and 1 month after each intervention.

Results: The exercise intervention improved the speed of responses during the Go-no-Go task without any increase in errors. This improvement was enhanced by cognitive enrichment (6 ± 1% ; p > 0.05), when compared with exercise alone (4 ± 0.5% ,). Following exercise cessation, this positive effect disappeared. No effect was observed on SRT performance.

Conclusion: Regular aerobic exercise improved cognitive performance in MCI subjects and the addition of cognitive tasks during exercise potentiated this effect. However, the influence of aerobic exercise on cognitive performance did not persist after cessation of training. Studies involving a larger number of subjects are necessary to confirm these results.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; cognition; interaction between physiological and cognitive process.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / rehabilitation*
  • Exercise
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Male
  • Mental Status Schedule
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome