Public Health Article

Physical Activity Interventions in Preventing Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer-Type Dementia: A Systematic Review

Review Quality Rating: 6 (moderate)

Citation: Brasure M, Desai P, Davila H, Nelson VA, Calvert C, Jutkowitz E, Butler M, Fink HA, Ratner E, Hemmy LS, McCarten JR, Barclay TR, Kane RL. (2018). Physical Activity Interventions in Preventing Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer-Type Dementia: A Systematic Review. Annals of Internal Medicine, 168(1).

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BACKGROUND: The prevalence of cognitive impairment and dementia is expected to increase dramatically as the population ages, creating burdens on families and health care systems.
PURPOSE: To assess the effectiveness of physical activity interventions in slowing cognitive decline and delaying the onset of cognitive impairment and dementia in adults without diagnosed cognitive impairments.
DATA SOURCES: Several electronic databases from January 2009 to July 2017 and bibliographies of systematic reviews.
STUDY SELECTION: Trials published in English that lasted 6 months or longer, enrolled adults without clinically diagnosed cognitive impairments, and compared cognitive and dementia outcomes between physical activity interventions and inactive controls.
DATA EXTRACTION: Extraction by 1 reviewer and confirmed by a second; dual-reviewer assessment of risk of bias; consensus determination of strength of evidence.
DATA SYNTHESIS: Of 32 eligible trials, 16 with low to moderate risk of bias compared a physical activity intervention with an inactive control. Most trials had 6-month follow-up; a few had 1- or 2-year follow-up. Evidence was insufficient to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of aerobic training, resistance training, or tai chi for improving cognition. Low-strength evidence showed that multicomponent physical activity interventions had no effect on cognitive function. Low-strength evidence showed that a multidomain intervention comprising physical activity, diet, and cognitive training improved several cognitive outcomes. Evidence regarding effects on dementia prevention was insufficient for all physical activity interventions.
LIMITATION: Heterogeneous interventions and cognitive test measures, small and underpowered studies, and inability to assess the clinical significance of cognitive test outcomes.
CONCLUSION: Evidence that short-term, single-component physical activity interventions promote cognitive function and prevent cognitive decline or dementia in older adults is largely insufficient. A multidomain intervention showed a delay in cognitive decline (low-strength evidence).


Adults (20-59 years), Adult's Health (men's health, women's health), Behaviour Modification (e.g., provision of item/tool, incentives, goal setting), Commercial Site, Community, Education / Awareness & Skill Development / Training, Home, Mental Health, Physical Activity, Senior Health, Seniors (60+ years)

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