(HealthDay News) – Physical and mental activity are both associated with improved cognitive functioning in inactive, older adults with cognitive complaints, according to a study published online April 1 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Deborah E. Barnes, PhD, MPH, from the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues enrolled 126 inactive, community-residing older adults (mean age 73.4 years; 62.7% women) with cognitive complaints to engage in home-based mental activity (one hour/day, three days/week) plus class-based physical activity (one hour/day, three days/week) for 12 weeks. Participants were randomized in a 2×2 factorial design to one of four groups: mental activity intervention (MA-I; intensive computer) or mental activity control (MA-C; educational DVDs) plus either exercise intervention (EX-I; aerobic) or exercise control (EX-C; stretching and toning). A neuropsychological test battery was used to assess cognitive changes.

The researchers found that, at baseline, there were no significant differences between the groups. Although there was a significant improvement in global cognitive scores over time, there was no significant differences between either MA-I and MA-C (ignoring exercise); between EX-I and EX-C (ignoring mental activity); or across all four randomization groups.

“In inactive older adults with cognitive complaints, 12 weeks of physical plus mental activity was associated with significant improvements in global cognitive function with no evidence of difference between intervention and active control groups,” write the authors. “These findings may reflect practice effects or may suggest that the amount of activity is more important than the type in this subject population.”

Computers, software, and DVDs were donated by Posit Science.

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