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Public Health Article

Physical activity to improve cognition in older adults: Can physical activity programs enriched with cognitive challenges enhance the effects? A systematic review and meta-analysis



Review Quality Rating: 9 (strong)

Citation: Gheysen F, Poppe L, DeSmet A, Swinnen S, Cardon G, De Bourdeaudhuij I, et al. (2018). Physical activity to improve cognition in older adults: Can physical activity programs enriched with cognitive challenges enhance the effects? A systematic review and meta-analysis. The International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 15(1), 63.

Evidence Summary Article full-text (free) PubMed LinkOut

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Aging-related cognitive decline and cognitive impairment greatly impacts older adults' daily life. The worldwide ageing of the population and associated wave of dementia urgently calls for prevention strategies to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Physical activity (PA) is known to improve cognitive function at older age through processes of neuroplasticity. Yet, emerging studies suggest that larger cognitive gains may be induced when PA interventions are combined with cognitive activity (CA). This meta-analysis evaluates these potential synergistic effects by comparing cognitive effects following combined PA?+?CA interventions to PA interventions (PA only), CA interventions (CA only) and control groups.

METHODS: Pubmed, Embase, PsycInfo, CINAHL and Sportdiscus were searched for English peer-reviewed papers until April 2018. Data were extracted on cognition and factors potentially influencing the cognitive effects: mode of PA?+?CA combination (sequential or simultaneous), session frequency and duration, intervention length and study quality. Differences between older adults with and without mild cognitive impairments were also explored.

RESULTS: Forty-one studies were included. Relative to the control group, combined PA?+?CA intervention showed significantly larger gains in cognition (g?=?0.316; 95% CI 0.188-0.443; p?

CONCLUSION: Findings of the current meta-analysis suggest that PA programs for older adults could integrate challenging cognitive exercises to improve cognitive health. Combined PA?+?CA programs should be promoted as a modality for preventing as well as treating cognitive decline in older adults. Sufficient cognitive challenge seems more important to obtain cognitive effects than high doses of intervention sessions.


Keywords

Behaviour Modification (e.g., provision of item/tool, incentives, goal setting), Community, Health Through the Ages, Home, Meta-analysis, Physical Activity, Senior Health, Seniors (60+ years)

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