Int J Sports Med 2002; 23(6): 415-421
DOI: 10.1055/s-2002-33735
Training & Testing
© Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart · New York

Improvement of Cognitive Function by Mental and/or Individualized Aerobic Training in Healthy Elderly Subjects

C.  Fabre1 , K.  Chamari2 , P.  Mucci3 , J.  Massé-Biron2 , C.  Préfaut2
  • 1Laboratoire d'Etudes de la Motricité Humaine, Université de Lille 2, Lille, France
  • 2Laboratoire de Physiologie des Interactions, Hôpital A. de Villeneuve, Montpellier, France
  • 3Laboratoire d'Analyse Multidisciplinaire des Pratiques Sportives, Université de Liévin-Artois, Liévin-Artois, France
Further Information

Publication History

Accepted after revision: November 15, 2001

Publication Date:
05 September 2002 (online)


The aim of this study was to compare the effects of aerobic and mental training on cognitive function and to determine if the association of the two techniques shows better results. Thirty-two healthy elderly subjects (60 - 76 years) were assigned to one of four groups: aerobic training, mental training, combined aerobic and mental training and a control group. All subjects took two cognitive tests and an incremental exercise test before and after the training period. The intensity of exercise was individualized at the heart rate corresponding to the ventilatory threshold of each subject. After two months, the control group showed no alteration in physiological and cognitive variables. After the training period, the results showed a significant improvement in V˙O2max (F = 4.45, DF = 1, p < 0.05) of 12 % and 11 % in aerobic training and combined aerobic and mental training groups, respectively. Logical memory (F = 4.31, DF = 1, p < 0.05), as well as paired associates learning scores (F = 5.47, DF = 1, p < 0.05) and memory quotient (F = 6.52, DF = 1, p < 0.01) were significantly improved in the three trained groups. The mean difference in memory quotient between pre and post training was significantly higher in the combined aerobic and mental training group compared to aerobic training or mental training groups (F = 11.60, DF = 3, p < 0.001). We conclude that the specific aerobic training and mental training used in this study could induce the same degree of improvement in cognitive function and that combined training seemed to lead to greater effects than either technique alone.


  • 1 Bashore T R, Goddard P H. Preservative and restorative effects of aerobic fitness on the age-related slowing of mental processing speed. In: Cerella J, Rybash J, Hoyer W, Commons ML (eds) Adult Information Processing: Limits on Loss. San Diego, CA; Academic 1993: 205-227
  • 2 Baltes P B, Dittmann-Kohli F, Kliegl R. Reserve capacity of the elderly in aging-sensitive tests fluid intelligence: Replication and extension.  Psychol Aging. 1986;  1 172-177
  • 3 Backman L, Ginovart N, Dixon R A, Wahlin A, Halldin C, Farde L. Age-related cognitive deficits mediated by changes in the striatal dopamine system.  Am J Psychiat. 2000;  157 635-637
  • 4 Beaver W L, Wasserman K, Whipp B J. A new method for detecting anaerobic threshold by gas exchange.  J Appl Physiol. 1986;  60 2020-2027
  • 5 Beck A T, Beamesderfer A. Assessment of depression: the depression inventory. In: Pichot P (ed) Pharmacopsychiatry. Switzerland; Karger 1974: 151-169
  • 6 Blumenthal J A, Emery C F, Madden D J, George L K, Coleman R E, Riddle M W, McKee D C, Reasoner J, Williams R S. Cardiovascular and behavioural effects of aerobic exercise training in healthy older men and women.  J Gerontol. 1989;  44 M147-157
  • 7 Brown B S, Payne T, Kim C, Moore G, Krebs P, Martin W. Chronic response of rat brain norepinephrine and serotonin levels to endurance training.  J Appl Physiol. 1979;  46 19-23
  • 8 Cavanaugh J C. The importance of awareness in memory aging. In: Poon LW, Rubin DC, Wilson BA (eds). Everyday Cognition in Adulthood and Late Life. New York; University Press 1990: 416-436
  • 9 Craik F, Dirk E. Age-related differences in three tests of visual imagery.  Psychol Aging. 1992;  7 661-665
  • 10 Dempster F N. The rise and fall of the inhibitory mechanism: toward a unified theory of cognitive development and aging.  Developm Rev. 1992;  12 45-75
  • 11 Dienstbier R A. Arousal and physiological toughness: implications for mental and physical health.  Psychol Rev. 1989;  96 84-100
  • 12 Dustman R E, Emmerson R Y, Shearer D E. Physical activity, age, and cognitive-neuropsychological function.  JAPA. 1994;  2 143-181
  • 13 Dustman R E, Emmerson R Y, Ruhling R O, Shearer D E, Steinhaus L A, Johnson S C, Bonekat H W, Shigeoka J W. Age and fitness effects on EEG, ERPs, visual sensitivity, and cognition.  Neurobiol Aging. 1990;  11 193-200
  • 14 Dustman R E, Ruhling R O, Russel E M, Shearer D E, Bonekat H W, Shigeoka J W, Wood J S, Bradford D C. Aerobic exercise training and improved neuropsychological function of older individuals.  Neurobiol Aging. 1984;  5 35-42
  • 15 Fabre C, Massé-Biron J, Ahmaidi S, Adam B, Préfaut C. Effectiveness of individualized aerobic training at the ventilatory threshold in the elderly.  J Gerontol. 1997;  52 B260-B266
  • 16 Gibson G E, Pulsinelli J P, Duffy T E. Brain dysfunction in mild to moderate hypoxia.  Am J Med. 1981;  70 1247-1254
  • 17 Hill R D, Storandt M, Malley M. The impact of long-term exercise training on psychological function in older adults.  J Gerontol. 1993;  48 12-17
  • 18 Ide K, Horn A, Secher N H. Cerebral metabolic response to submaximal exercise.  J Appl Physiol . 1999;  87 1604-1608
  • 19 Israel L (ed). Entrainer sa mémoire. Paris; Centre de psychologie appliquée 1987
  • 20 Jorgesen L G, Perko G, Secher N H. Regional cerebral artery mean flow velocity and blood flow during dynamic exercise in humans.  J Appl Physiol . 1992;  73 1825-1830
  • 21 Katch V, Weltman A, Sady S, Freedson P. Validity of the relative percent concept for equation training intensity.  Eur J Appl Physiol. 1978;  39 219-227
  • 22 Levine B D, Giller C A, Lane L D, Buckey J C, Blomqvist C G. Cerebral versus systemic hemodynamics during graded orthostatic stress in humans.  Circulation. 1994;  90 298-306
  • 23 Madden D L, Blumenthal J A, Allen P A, Emery C F. Improving aerobic capacity in healthy older adults does not necessarily lead to improved cognitive performance.  Psychol Aging. 1989;  4 307-320
  • 24 Mason S E, Smith A D. Imagery in the aged.  Exp Aging Res. 1977;  3 17-32
  • 25 Parasuraman R, Giambra L. Skill development in vigilance: effects of event rate and age.  Psychol Aging. 1991;  6 155-169
  • 26 Rogers R L, Meyer J S, Mortel K F. After reaching retirement age physical activity sustains cerebral perfusion and cognition.  J Am Geriatr Soc. 1990;  38 123-128
  • 27 Scheel P, Ruge C, Petruch U, Schöning M. Color duplex measurement of cerebral blood flow volume in healthy adults.  Stroke. 2000;  31 147-150
  • 28 Signoret J L, Allard M, Benoit N, Bolgert F, Bonvarlet M, Eustache F (eds). Evaluation des troubles de mémoire et des désordres cognitifs associés. Paris; B.E.C.96.IPSEN 1989
  • 29 Stemmelin J, Lazarus C, Cassel S, Kelche C, Cassel J C. Immunohistochemical and neurochemical correlates of learning deficits in aged rats.  Neuroscience. 2000;  96 275-289
  • 30 Tomporowski P D. The effects of physical and mental training on the mental abilities of older adults.  JAPA. 1997;  5 9-26
  • 31 Van Boxtell M, Paas F, Houx P, Adam J, Teeken J, Jolles J. Aerobic capacity and cognitive performance in a cross-sectional aging study.  Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997;  29 1357-1365
  • 32 Voorrips L, Ravelli A, Dongelmans P, Deurenberg P, Van Staveren W. A physical activity questionnaire for the elderly.  Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1991;  23 974-979
  • 33 Wechsler D (ed). L'échelle clinique de mémoire. Paris; Centre de psychologie appliquée 1969
  • 34 Yesavage J A. Imagery pretraining and memory training in the elderly.  J Gerontol. 1983;  29 271-275
  • 35 Yesavage J A, Rose T L. The effects of a face-name mnemonic in young, middle-aged, and elderly subjects.  Exp Aging Res. 1984;  10 55-57

C. Fabre

Laboratoire d'Etudes de la Motricité Humaine · Université de Lille 2 · Faculté des Sciences du Sport et de l'Education Physique

9 rue de l'Université · 59790 Ronchin · France ·

Phone: +33 (320) 887376

Fax: +33 (320) 887363