Journal of Human Sport and Exercise

Effect of a combined program of physical activity and intellectual activity in the cognitive functioning of the elderly

Aurora Martínez Vidal, Aurora Prada Martinez, Maria Del Pino Diaz Pereira, Maria Jose Martínez-Patiño



Aerobic exercise done in an enriched environment with intellectual activity seems to improve cognitive performance associated with the aging process of humans, although the results can sometimes be contradictory. The objective of the present study was to ascertain to what degree the practice of combined aerobic exercise and memory strategies improve the cognitive functioning, in general, and to a more concrete measure in the cognitive memory domain of the elderly. Sixteen subjects, the majority of which were women with only two of which were men, participated in the investigation. The average age of all participants was 71. A prospective, longitudinal, and intra-subject design was to evaluate the cognitive abilities before and after the intervention, using a modified Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) as the instrument of measure. The intervention lasted over a period of eight months and consisted in a physical activity program based upon various abilities of displacement as well as association, sequential, and imagination memory strategies. The recall differential variable presented statistical differences significant at the 95% confidence interval to the degree pre and post intervention (t= -4.842; sig = 0.000; with the limits at -1.71028 y -0.66472) while the other cognitive domains showed general improvement in the post-intervention measures although no reaching significant levels. On the other hand, it was demonstrated by Cochran´s Q test that after the intervention, an overall incremental improvement existed in the number of subjects that responded correctly to all items in each cognitive domain, being most prominent and the only significant percent of subjects that after the program responded correctly to all of the items in the recall (0.011). No significant improvements were shown in the terms of age group nor in terms of initial cognitive function (U of Mann Whitley), however, the subjects who initially had the lowest cognitive level are among those that benefited the most from the program.


Physical activity; Intellectual activity; Memory; Elderly; Cognitive ability


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