Objective: To determine the effect of a general group-based exercise program on cognitive performance and mood among seniors without dementia living in retirement villages.
Design: Randomized controlled trial.
Setting: Four intermediate care and four self-care retirement village sites in Sydney, Australia.
Participants: Nineteen senior men and 135 senior women who were residents of intermediate care and self-care retirement facilities.
Intervention: Participants were randomized to one of the following experimental groups: 1) a general group-based exercise (GE) program composed of resistance training and balance training exercises; 2) a flexibility exercise and relaxation technique (FR) program; or 3) no-exercise control (NEC). The intervention groups (GE and FR) participated in one-hour exercise classes twice a week for a total period of six months.
Main Outcome Measures: Using standard neuropsychological tests, we assessed cognitive performance at baseline and at six-month retest in the following domains: 1) fluid intelligence; 2) visual, verbal, and working memory; and 3) executive functioning. We also assessed mood by the Geriatric Depression Scale and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule.
Results: The GE program significantly improved cognitive performance of fluid intelligence compared with FR or NEC. Also, there were significant improvements in the PANAS-P scale within both the GE and FR groups and an indication that the two exercise programs reduced depression in those with initial high Geriatric Depression Scale scores.
Conclusions: Our GE program significantly improved cognitive performance of fluid intelligence in seniors residing in retirement villages compared with our FR program and the NEC group. Furthermore, both group-based exercise programs provided benefits for certain aspects of mood within the six-month intervention period.