Mild cognitive impairment is a transition stage in cognitive decline that occurs with age and dementia.
It may affect normal thinking, learning, reasoning, judgment and may cause other memory changes such as impaired language and attention.
First clinical trial
In the first study, scientists from the University of Washington School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, looked at 33 adults (17 women), aged 70, with mild cognitive impairment.
For the study, the participants were divided into two groups: 23 were assigned to undertake high-intensity aerobics fro 45-60 minutes a day, while the remaining 10 formed the controls who were asked to do simple stretching exercises with low heart rate.
The participants were then followed for six months during which the researchers kept track of their fitness, body fat, metabolic markers and cognitive functions.
Physical activity improved cognitive function
Analysis of the data revealed those who performed the high intensity exercised showed improved cognitive function compared to the controls.
It was also found that women participants showed significantly improved cognitive functions compared to men despite undergoing similar fitness regimes.
The scientists hypothesized that gender differences may have been a reason behind that phenomenon.
“Aerobic exercise is a cost-effective practice that is associated with numerous physical benefits. The results of this study suggest that exercise also provides a cognitive benefit for some adults with mild cognitive impairment," the authors said.
"Six months of a behavioral intervention involving regular intervals of increased heart rate was sufficient to improve cognitive performance for an at-risk group without the cost and adverse effects associated with most pharmaceutical therapies,” they added.
Second clinical trial
A second study involving 1324 dementia-free individuals found that moderate physical activity not only improves mild cognitive decline, it may also prevent the condition.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, studied the work-out habits of these participants who were asked to complete a physical exercise questionnaire from 2006-2008. Average age of the participants was 80 years.
After the study period, a total of 198 participants were found to have developed mild cognitive impairment while 1,126 had normal cognition.
It was found that those who undertook mild physical activity such as swimming, brisk walking, yoga, aerobics during midlife had a 39 percent reduced risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.
On the other hand, those who undertook moderate physical activity in their later lives were 32 percent less likely to develop the condition.
Both the studies appear in the Journal Archives of Neurology.