Exercise effective for executive function in the long-term
Exercise appears to bear substantial long-term executive functioning benefits in elderly adults with cognitive impairments but not dementia who have cardiovascular disease risk factors, according to a follow-up to the ENLIGHTEN* trial.
ENLIGHTEN randomly assigned 160 volunteers to one of four groups according to a two-by-two factorial design: aerobic exercise (AE) alone (mean age, 65.8±7.3 years; 32 percent male), the DASH** diet alone (mean age, 66.0±7.1 years; 37 percent male), AE with the DASH diet (mean age, 64.9±6.2 years; 35 percent male) or health education (mean age, 64.7±6.6 years; 32 percent male). Neurocognition was measured after 1 year of follow-up using a battery of tests.
Follow-up information was available for 93 percent (n=149) of the participants. Executive function remained significantly better in both exercise groups (p=0.041). Both groups that received the DASH dietary plan intervention also had better executive function, though the difference was only of borderline significance (p=0.054).
To assess the clinical impact of exercise, researchers expressed the improvements in executive function as changes in predicted age. At the 6-month follow-up, those who received both the AE and DASH interventions were better by 8.8 years than baseline, while participants who were randomized to either of the interventions alone had improved by 6.5 years.
The observed trend continued until the 1-year follow-up, such that patients in the group that received both exercise and dietary interventions exhibited improvements of 7.9 years.
*ENLIGHTEN - Exercise and Nutritional Interventions for Neurocognitive Health Enhancement
**DASH - Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension