Exercise Benefits Cognition in Older Adults

HealthDay News — Physical exercise improves cognitive function in people over 50 years of age, according to a review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Joseph Michael Northey, from the University of Canberra in Australia, and colleagues conducted a systematic literature review to identify randomized controlled trials of physical exercise interventions that measured cognitive function outcomes in community-dwelling adults older than 50 years. They included 39 studies.

In an analysis of 333 dependent effect sizes from 36 studies, the researchers found that physical exercise improved cognitive function. Significant point estimates were seen with aerobic exercise, resistance training, multicomponent training, and tai chi. A duration of 45 minutes to 60 minutes per session and at least moderate intensity were associated with benefits to cognition. Independent of the cognitive domain tested or the cognitive status of the participants, results of the meta-analysis were consistent.

“To improve cognitive function, this meta-analysis provides clinicians with evidence to recommend that patients obtain both aerobic and resistance exercise of at least moderate intensity on as many days of the week as feasible, in line with current exercise guidelines,” conclude the authors.


Northey JM, Cherbuin N, Pumpa KL, Smee DJ, Rattray B. Exercise interventions for cognitive function in adults older than 50: a systematic review with meta-analysis [published online April 24, 2017]. Br J Sports Med. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-096587