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Neurobiol Aging. 2012 Mar;33(3):622.e29-43. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2011.02.020. Epub 2011 Apr 22.

Measuring the impact of exercise on cognitive aging: methodological issues.

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1
School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Abstract

Physical exercise and fitness have been proposed as potential factors that promote healthy cognitive aging. Support for this hypothesis has come from cross sectional, longitudinal, and intervention studies. In the present review, we discuss several methodological problems that limit the conclusions of many studies. The lack of consensus on how to retrospectively measure exercise intensity is a major difficulty for all studies that attempt to estimate lifelong impact of exercise on cognitive performance in older adults. Intervention studies have a much better capacity to establish causality, but still suffer from difficulties arising from inadequate control groups and the choice and modality of administration of cognitive measures. We argue that, while the association between exercise and preserved cognition during aging is clearly demonstrated, the specific hypothesis that physical exercise is a cause of healthy cognitive aging has yet to be validated. A number of factors could mediate the exercise-cognition association, including depression, and social or cognitive stimulation. The complex interactions among these 3 factors and the potential impact of exercise on cognition remain to be systematically studied. At this time, the best prescription for lifestyle interventions for healthy cognitive aging would be sustained physical, social, and mental activities. What remains unknown is which type of activity might be most useful, and whether everyone benefits similarly from the same interventions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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