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Aging Clin Exp Res. 2015 Apr;27(2):149-59. doi: 10.1007/s40520-014-0252-9. Epub 2014 Jun 26.

Differential effects of water-based exercise on the cognitive function in independent elderly adults.

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Institute for Human Movement and Medical Sciences, Niigata University of Health and Welfare, Niigata, Japan,



Physical exercise has been reported to be the most effective method to improve cognitive function and brain health, but there is as yet no research on the effect of water-based exercise.


The aim of the present study was to compare the effects of water-based exercise with and without cognitive stimuli on cognitive and physical functions.


The design is a single-blind randomized controlled study. Twenty-one participants were randomly assigned to a normal water-based exercise (Nor-WE) group or a cognitive water-based exercise (Cog-WE) group. The exercise sessions were divided into two exercise series: a 10-min series of land-based warm-up, consisting of flexibility exercises, and a 50-min series of exercises in water. The Nor-WE consisted of 10 min of walking, 30 min of strength and stepping exercise, including stride over, and 10 min of stretching and relaxation in water. The Cog-WE consisted of 10 min of walking, 30 min of water-cognitive exercises, and 10 min of stretching and relaxation in water. Cognitive function, physical function, and ADL were measured before the exercise intervention (pre-intervention) and 10 weeks after the intervention (post-intervention).


Participation in the Cog-WE performed significantly better on the pegboard test and the choice stepping reaction test and showed a significantly improved attention, memory, and learning, and in the general cognitive function (measured as the total score in the 5-Cog test). Participation in the Nor-WE dramatically improved walking ability and lower limb muscle strength.


Our results reveal that the benefits elderly adults may obtain from water-based exercise depend on the characteristics of each specific exercise program. These findings highlight the importance of prescription for personalized water-based exercises to elderly adults to improve cognitive function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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