Effects of simultaneous cognitive and aerobic exercise training on dual-task walking performance in healthy older adults: results from a pilot randomized controlled trial

  • David A. Raichlen (Creator)
  • Pradyumna K. Bharadwaj (Contributor)
  • Lauren A. Nguyen (Creator)
  • Mary Kathryn Franchetti (Creator)
  • Erika K. Zigman (Creator)
  • Abigail R. Solorio (Creator)
  • Gene E Alexander (Creator)



Abstract Background The ability to walk and perform cognitive tasks simultaneously is a key aspect of daily life. Performance declines in these dual-tasks may be associated with early signs of neurodegenerative disease and increased risk of falls. Thus, interventions to improve dual-task walking performance are of great interest for promoting healthy aging. Here, we present results of a pilot randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the effects of a simultaneous aerobic exercise and cognitive training intervention on dual-task walking performance in healthy older adults. Methods Community-dwelling, healthy older adults were recruited to participate in a 12-week RCT. Participants were randomized into one of four groups (n = 74): 1) cognitive training (COG), 2) aerobic exercise (EX), 3) combined aerobic exercise and cognitive training (EXCOG), and 4) video-watching control (CON). The COG and EXCOG groups both used a tablet-based cognitive training program that challenged aspects of executive cognitive function, memory, and processing speed. Performance on a dual-task walking test (DTWT; serial subtraction during two-minute walk) was assessed by researchers blinded to groupings before the intervention, and at 6 and 12 weeks. We included all participants randomized with baseline measurements in an intention to treat analysis using linear mixed effects models. Results We found a significant group by time interaction for cognitive performance on the DTWT (p = 0.039). Specifically, participants in the EXCOG, EX, and COG groups significantly improved on the cognitive aspect of the DTWT following the full 12-week intervention (p = 3.5e-7, p = 0.048, p = 0.048, respectively). The improvements in EXCOG were twice as large as in the other groups, and were significant at 6 weeks (p = 0.019). The CON group did not show a significant change in cognitive performance on the DTWT, and no group significantly altered dual-task gait measures following the intervention. Conclusions A simultaneous aerobic exercise and cognitive training intervention significantly improved cognitive performance during a DTWT in healthy older adults. Despite no change in DTWT gait measures, significant improvements in cognitive performance indicate that further investigation in a larger RCT is warranted. Trial registration Clinicaltrials.gov, NCT04120792, Retrospectively Registered 08 October 2019.
Date made available2020

Cite this