Cognitive impact of exercise and mindfulness in older adults: A comprehensive study

Mindfulness Cognitive impact Painting

A large-scale study found that neither exercise nor mindfulness training improved cognitive function in older adults who reported age-related changes in memory but did not have a diagnosis of dementia. Posted in JAMA, the study involved 585 adults between the ages of 65 and 84, who were randomly assigned to four groups: an exercise group, a mindfulness group, a combination of exercise and mindfulness, and a control group that received a general health education. After conducting memory tests and brain scans at the start of the study, as well as after six months and 18 months, the researchers found no significant differences in cognitive performance between the groups.

In healthy older adults, neither exercise nor mindfulness led to measurable improvements after 6 or 18 months.

A study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine and the University of California, San Diego found no improvement in cognitive function in older adults after exercise or mindfulness training over an 18-month period. Despite the findings, the researchers plan to continue studying the long-term impact of these interventions on cognitive decline.

A large study that looked at whether exercise and mindfulness training could boost cognitive function in older adults found no improvement with either intervention. Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of California, San Diego studied the cognitive effects of exercise, mindfulness training, or both for up to 18 months in older adults who reported changes in age-related memory but had not been diagnosed with any form of dementia.

The results were recently published in JAMA.

We know beyond a doubt that exercise is good for older adults, that it can reduce the risk of heart problems, strengthen bones, improve mood and have other beneficial effects, and has been thought to improve cognitive function as well, they said. first study author, Eric J. Lenze, MD, Wallace and Lucille Renard Professor and head of the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University. Similarly, mindfulness training is beneficial because it reduces stress, and stress can be bad for the brain. Therefore, we speculated that if older adults exercised regularly, practiced mindfulness, or both, there could be cognitive benefits, but that’s not what we found.

Seniors exercising

Seniors work with exercise instructors as part of a study to see whether exercise, mindfulness training, or both could improve cognitive performance in older adults. A new study showed no such improvements, though researchers are continuing to explore whether there might be some cognitive effects over a longer period of time. Credit: Washington University School of Medicine

Lenze and his colleagues still want to see if there might be cognitive effects over a longer period of time, so they plan to continue studying this group of older adults to find out if exercise and mindfulness might help prevent future cognitive declines. In this study, however, the practices did not boost cognitive function.

So many older adults are concerned about memory, said senior author Julie Wetherell, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego. It’s important for studies like ours to develop and test behavioral interventions to try and provide them with neuroprotection and stress reduction, as well as general health benefits.

The researchers studied 585 adults between the ages of 65 and 84. None had been diagnosed with dementia, but all had concerns about minor memory problems and other age-related cognitive declines.

Minor memory problems are often thought of as a normal part of aging, but it’s also normal for people to become concerned when they notice these problems, said Lenze, who also directs Washington University’s Healthy Mind Lab. The main goal of our lab is to help older people stay healthy by focusing on maintaining their mental and cognitive health as they age, and we were eager to see if exercise and mindfulness could offer a cognitive boost in the same way they do. which improve other aspects of health.

All study participants were considered cognitively normal for their age. The researchers tested them when they enrolled in the study, measuring memory and other aspects of thinking. They also conducted brain imaging scans.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups: a group in which subjects worked with trained exercise instructors; a group supervised by qualified experts in mindfulness practice; one group that participated in regular exercise and mindfulness training; and a group that did neither, but came together for occasional sessions focused on general health education topics. The researchers conducted memory tests and follow-up brain scans after six months and again after 18 months.

At six months and again at 18 months, all groups looked similar. All four groups performed slightly better on the tests, but the researchers believe this is due to the effects of the practice as the study subjects retook tests similar to those they had previously taken. Similarly, brain scans revealed no differences between groups that would suggest a brain benefit of the workout.

Lenze said the study findings don’t mean that exercise or mindfulness training won’t help improve cognitive function in older adults, just that such practices don’t appear to increase cognitive performance in healthy people without disabilities.

We’re not saying, don’t exercise or, don’t practice mindfulness, Lenze explained. But we thought we might find a cognitive benefit in these older adults. We didn’t. On the other hand, we did not study whether exercise or mindfulness could benefit older adults I am impaired, due to dementia or disorders such as depression. I don’t think we can extrapolate from the data that these practices don’t help improve cognitive function in anyone.

Lenze said the researchers recently received funding from the[{” attribute=””>National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue following the group of adults who participated in this study.

They are still engaging in exercise and mindfulness, he said. We didnt see improvements, but cognitive performance didnt decline either. In the studys next phase, well continue following the same people for five more years to learn whether exercise and mindfulness training might help slow or prevent future cognitive declines.

Reference: Effects of Mindfulness Training and Exercise on Cognitive Function in Older Adults A Randomized Clinical Trial by Eric J. Lenze, MD; Michelle Voegtle; J. Philip Miller, AB; Beau M. Ances, MD; David A. Balota, PhD; Deanna Barch, PhD; Colin A. Depp, PhD; Breno Satler Diniz, MD, PhD; Lisa T. Eyler, PhD; Erin R. Foster, PhD; Torie R. Gettinger, PhD; Denise Head, PhD; Tamara Hershey, PhD; Samuel Klein, MD; Jeanne F. Nichols, PhD; Ginger E. Nicol, MD; Tomoyuki Nishino, MS; Bruce W. Patterson, PhD; Thomas L. Rodebaugh, PhD; Julie Schweiger; Joshua S. Shimony, MD; David R. Sinacore, PhD; Abraham Z. Snyder, MD; Susan Tate, PhD; Elizabeth W. Twamley, PhD; David Wing, MS; Gregory F. Wu, MD; Lei Yang, MPH, MSIS; Michael D. Yingling, MS and Julie Loebach Wetherell, PhD, 13 December 2022, JAMA.
DOI: 10.1001/jama.2022.21680

The study was funded with support from the National Institute on Aging, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Science Research, and the McKnight Brain Research Foundation. National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant numbers: R01 AG049369, P50 MH122351, P50 HD103525, P30 DK056341 and UL1 TR000448. Additional funding provided by the Taylor Family Institute for Innovative Psychiatric Research.

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