Exercise Training in Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment: A One-Year Randomized Controlled Trial

J Alzheimers Dis. 2019;71(2):421-433. doi: 10.3233/JAD-181175.


Background: The current evidence is inconclusive to support the benefits of aerobic exercise training (AET) for preventing neurocognitive decline in patients with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI).

Objective: To examine the effect of a progressive, moderate-to-high intensity AET program on memory and executive function, brain volume, and cortical amyloid-β (Aβ) plaque deposition in aMCI patients.

Methods: This is a proof-of-concept trial that randomized 70 aMCI patients to 12 months of AET or stretching and toning (SAT, active control) interventions. Primary neuropsychological outcomes were assessed by using the California Verbal Learning Test-second edition (CVLT-II) and the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System (D-KEFS). Secondary outcomes were the global and hippocampal brain volumes and the mean cortical and precuneus Aβ deposition.

Results: Baseline cognitive scores were similar between the groups. Memory and executive function performance improved over time but did not differ between the AET and SAT groups. Brain volume decreased and precuneus Aβ plaque deposition increased over time but did not differ between the groups. Cardiorespiratory fitness was significantly improved in the AET compared with SAT group. In amyloid positive patients, AET was associated with reduced hippocampal atrophy when compared with the SAT group.

Conclusion: The AET and SAT groups both showed evidence of slightly improved neuropsychological scores in previously sedentary aMCI patients. However, these interventions did not prevent brain atrophy or increases in cortical Aβ deposition over 12 months. In amyloid positive patients, AET reduced hippocampal atrophy when compared with the SAT group.

Keywords: Aerobic exercise; amyloid deposition; brain volume; cardiovascular fitness; mild cognitive impairment.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Amnesia / diagnostic imaging
  • Amnesia / psychology*
  • Amnesia / therapy*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / diagnostic imaging
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / psychology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / therapy*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / diagnostic imaging
  • Hippocampus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Positron-Emission Tomography / methods
  • Single-Blind Method