Cognitive Effects of Adding Caloric Restriction to Aerobic Exercise Training in Older Adults with Obesity

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2019 Aug;27(8):1266-1274. doi: 10.1002/oby.22525. Epub 2019 Jun 14.


Objective: This study examined the short- and long-term effects of adding caloric restriction to 5 months of aerobic exercise training on executive function in sedentary older adults with obesity.

Methods: Sedentary adults with obesity aged 65 to 79 years completed a randomized trial investigating the cardiorespiratory benefits of adding moderate (~ 250 kcal) or high (~ 600 kcal) caloric restriction to a 20-week aerobic exercise program. Approximately half (n = 88) completed a cognitive assessment battery at baseline, post intervention, and 18 to 24 months after intervention completion. The primary outcome was an executive function composite score.

Results: In the overall sample, the executive function composite increased 0.114 from baseline to postintervention (P = 0.01). Randomization to caloric restriction did not significantly alter executive function over aerobic exercise alone, nor were there between-group differences on any individual executive function test following the intervention or at long-term follow-up. Adding caloric restriction to exercise was associated with a modest increase in Mini-Mental State Examination score (P = 0.04). In the overall sample, increases from baseline at long-term follow-up were noted in digit symbol and word list recall performance as well.

Conclusions: Adding caloric restriction to a 20-week aerobic exercise program does not worsen or improve executive function more than exercise alone assessed up to 24 months post randomization.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Caloric Restriction / methods
  • Caloric Restriction / psychology*
  • Cognition
  • Executive Function
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome