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AAIC 2022 | Investigating aerobic exercise and cognition in older adults

Laura Baker, PhD, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, summarizes the history of exercise and dementia. Several decades of accumulating data on aerobic exercise to combat cognitive decline has led to the establishment of the longest-ever Phase III study of exercise on cognition and brain function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). One of the earliest studies investigating aerobic fitness and cognition assessed aerobic versus anaerobic (stretching and toning) exercise in 124 previously sedentary older adults for 6 months. Substantial improvements in executive functioning were seen in those who received aerobic training. Based on these data, Prof. Baker set up two pilot studies to assess the role of high-intensity aerobic exercise in people at high risk for cognitive decline. Similar findings were recorded, with participants showing improvements in executive performance. Since then, several randomized trials in adults at high risk for dementia have continued to support the benefits of aerobic exercise, showing effects on regional blood flow, Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers, brain atrophy, and cognition. Most recently, the topline results of the Phase III, multi-site, 18-month EXERT trial (NCT02814526) were presented at AAIC 2022. EXERT examined the effects of regular aerobic exercise versus stretching, balance, and range of motion (SBR) training on brain function in 300 older adults with MCI. This interview took place at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2022 in San Diego, CA.