UBC Graduate Research

The Effects of Non-aerobic Exercise on Cognitive Function in Older Adults Wan, Thomas; Ghannadan, Reza; Bell, Jon; Johnson, Garett; Bai, Seungjin


Cognitive decline among older adults is a major health care concern. Over 24 million people currently live with dementia worldwide, causing it to be the leading cause of disability in people over 60, with annual costs of 100 billion dollars in the U.S.A. Despite a lack of evidence supporting the use of pharmacological treatments for preventing or slowing the progression of Alzheimer's disease (AD) (the most common form of dementia), there are three drugs that are commonly prescribed for mild to moderate AD. There is currently no known cure for dementia. However, since there is a strong association between the increase in physical inactivity and the emergence of modern chronic diseases, physical activity has been widely promoted as a strategy for healthy aging. Physical activity provides clear benefits for cognition among older adults and lowers the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. It reduces brain tissue loss, increases brain volume, and protects and enhances CNS integrity. It also promotes brain vascularization, neurogenesis, functional changes in neuronal structure, and neuronal resistance to injury. Finally, it enhances several neurotransmitter systems in the brain, including dopamine,serotonin, and acetylcholine. It is also believed that exercise activates molecular and cellular cascades that support and maintain brain plasticity. For example, exercise-induced increases of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) are believed to play important roles in mediating the effects of exercise on brain health and performance, while exercise-induced reductions in serum homocysteine may play a role in reducing cognitive impairment. Most studies to date have focused on aerobic-based exercise interventions, but it has been suggested that non-aerobic exercise may also benefit cognition. While non-aerobic exercise may not provide an easy fix to enhance brain health and cognition across the life span, there is evidence to suggest that it may be an effective means available to improve mental and physical health, without the side effects of many pharmacological treatments. If found to have a positive effect on cognition, non-aerobic exercise based interventions may provide clinicians with a variety of alternative treatment options. Thus, a systemic review investigating the effects of non-aerobic exercise on cognitive function in older adults is warranted. MPT Systematic Reviews and Research Projects.

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