Health Futures Institute

Exploring how exercise can improve cognitive function

Research from Centre for Healthy Ageing sought to investigate the effect of moderate-intensity and high-intensity exercise on cognitive function.


Areas of research

Healthy Ageing, Cognitive Function

Technology utilised


Lead researchers

Dr Belinda Brown


What was the need for this project?

Currently there are no pharmacological treatments or therapies that reverse, prevent or delay age-related decline in cognitive ability (i.e. memory and thinking skills).

Over the past decade, considerable research has been conducted on the therapeutic impact that a healthy lifestyle may have on cognitive decline.


How the project was completed

The study involved evaluating the impact of high-intensity and moderate-intensity exercise on cognitive function in 99 cognitively normal adults (i.e. individuals without dementia). They were divided into three groups - subjects who were given a program of either high or moderate intensity exercise, and a control group. They exercised twice a week for a six month period using a stationary exercise bike at the Mind and Body Laboratory at Murdoch. Their cognitive function was measured using a series of neuropsychological tests, which were administered before the participants undertook the exercise and then again after they completed the six-month intervention.


Results and achievements for this project

Although the study showed that there was no direct effect of exercise on cognition from before to after intervention, there was an association between increases in fitness and improvements in cognition.

The data also suggested that genetics may moderate the relationship between fitness and cognitive change following exercise, and that this should be examined further in larger trials.


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