Subjects: Behavioral health
The second study published this week on the subject focused on elderly denizens of Perth, Australia who reported memory loss but did not meet criteria for dementia. These people were randomized to receive either routine care or a home-based intervention consisting of moderate physical activity. The latter typically involved three 50 minute walks per week. The patients were followed for 24 weeks and then assessed for cognitive function using the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale. Assessors didn’t know which group the subjects were assigned to.
Investigators found that patients in the treatment group improved their cognitive performance scores vs. their baseline performance, whereas those in the control group lost ground compared with their own baseline. The performance gap between groups was significant and it persisted for 18 months after the study concluded.
This study is the first randomized trial showing beneficial effects of physical activity in the population studied. Since randomized trial designs provide the most rigorous test of clinical hypotheses, a positive result here is particularly noteworthy.