Aerobic physical activity improves cognitive function in older people

Clinical question: 
How effective is physical activity, aimed at improving cardiorespiratory fitness, on cognitive function in older people (>55 years) without known cognitive impairment?
Bottom line: 
Aerobic physical activities which improve cardiorespiratory fitness (an increase in VO2 max of approximately 14%) are beneficial for cognitive function in healthy older adults, with effects observed for motor function, cognitive speed, delayed memory functions and auditory and visual attention.
Caveat: 
The cognitive functions which improved were not the same in each study, and the majority of comparisons yielded no significant results. Aerobic activity improves cardiovascular fitness, but it is not known whether this sort of fitness is necessary for improved cognitive function.
Context: 
Physical activity is beneficial for healthy ageing. A regular exercise programme can slow down or prevent functional decline associated with ageing and improve health in this age group. It is thought it may also help maintain good cognitive function in older age.
Review CD#: 
CD005381
PEARLS No: 
85
Date: 
August, 2008
Authored by: 
Brian R McAvoy