Exercise is touted as helping healthy adults stay that way, both physically and mentally. Might it also help people whose memory and other cognitive abilities have started to decline?
This study included 35 adults who averaged in their mid- to upper 70s; they consisted of two groups: 18 with mild cognitive impairment and 17 with no cognitive decline. Everyone did moderate exercise, walking on a treadmill with increasing frequency and duration until they were doing four 30-minute sessions a week. After 12 weeks, both groups registered about a 10 percent improvement in cardio-respiratory fitness. Brain scans and a battery of standardized neuropsychological tests, focusing on memory, showed cognitive improvement in both groups, and to virtually the same degree, including such aspects as better recall and improved neural efficiency (less brainpower required for cognitive tasks). The researchers noted that, in people with mild cognitive impairment, treatment that achieves stability in memory is considered successful; they described the cognitive improvement in their impaired participants as “remarkable.”