The in the older adult population in Ireland

The link
between exercise and improvement in cognitive function is an area of study
which has seen a growing interest in the past few years. With an aging
population maintenance of cognitive function has become more important than
ever and showing that exercise improves it would have major benefits to the
health system and quality of life in the older adult population in Ireland and world-wide.


The aim of Lautenschlager
et al.’s study in 2008 was to examine the impact that a 24 week physical
activity programme in older adults at risk of Alzheimer’s disease has on
cognitive function. The subjects were volunteers aged 50 or over who reported
having memory problems without a dementia diagnosis. If a participant answered
yes to the question “Do you have difficulty with your memory” they were
included in randomisation of the trial regardless of cognitive function.  Individuals were excluded if they displayed
evidence of significant cognitive impairment or a chronic illness will limit
their ability to complete the exercise programme. The subjects assessed for
both current physical activity and cognitive function and were considered
active if they walked over 70,000 steps a week. The subjects were divided into
a control group and an exercise group randomly using a computer programme. The
intervention’s aim was to increase the individuals physical activity to 150
minutes a week, exercising in three 50 minutes classes a week. The participants
who already physically active were encouraged to increase their weekly physical
activity by an additional 50 minutes. Of the 311 people screened, 170 people
were eligible to participate with 138 completing the study. Volunteers in the
exercise group improved by 0.26 points and volunteers in the usual care group
deteriorated by -1.04 point on the ADAS-Cog, both results within the 95%
confidence interval. The large difference in the level of exercise between the
two groups pre-trial may have had an impact on the results as the control group
were already a lot more active than the control group yet had a similar level
of cognition before the test potentially skewing the results. There was also
little monitoring for either groups on their compliance.

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Baker et
al. followed two years later looking at effect of aerobic exercise on cognitive
function and biomarkers for Alzheimer disease and then to examine the relationship
that gender has in response. There was thirty-three participants all diagnosed
with an amnestic mild cognitive impairment. The volunteers also had to
self-report sedentary behaviour and be free from any illness that would prevent
them from participating fully in the study. The subjects were divided into two
groups in a 2:1 ratio, the aerobic group and the stretching control group. Both
groups exercised four days a week for 45 to 60 minutes each time for the 6
month intervention. In the aerobic group, exercise tolerance was built up over
a 6 week period and after which aerobic training was carried out at 75-85% of
heart rate reserve. In the stretching group, the volunteers participated in a
route of stretching and balance exercise keeping at 50% or less of heart rate
reserve. Positive effects were seen for symbol-digit modalities (p


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