Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Aerobic exercise ameliorates cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials
  1. Guohua Zheng1,3,
  2. Rui Xia1,
  3. Wenji Zhou1,
  4. Jing Tao1,
  5. Lidian Chen2
  1. 1College of Rehabilitation Medicine, Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shangjie University Town, Fuzhou, China
  2. 2Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shangjie University Town, Fuzhou, China
  3. 3College of Health Information Technology and Management, Shanghai University of Health & Medicine Science. Pudong New District, Shanghai, China
  1. Correspondence to Lidian Chen, Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, HuaTuo Road, Fuzhou 350122, China; lidianchen87{at}


Objective To evaluate the effect of aerobic exercise on cognitive function in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Design Systematic review and meta-analysis of aerobic exercise intervention for cognitive function in older adults with MCI.

Data sources PubMed, EMBASE, SinoMed, China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), Wanfang and Chinese Science and Technology Periodical (VIP) databases from their inception to 31 January 2015, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (Cochrane Library, 2015, Issue 3) and the reference lists of all retrieved articles.

Eligibility criteria Randomised controlled trials, older adults with MCI, aerobic exercises compared with no specific exercise intervention for global cognitive ability and any specific domains of cognition.

Data synthesis Meta-analysis was conducted with RevMan V.5.3 software using the fixed-effect model for the available data without significant heterogeneity, or the random-effect model was used if appropriate.

Results 11 studies were identified involving 1497 participants. Meta-analysis showed that aerobic exercise significantly improved global cognitive ability (Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores: MD=0.98, 95% CI 0.5 to 1.45, p<0.0001; Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) scores: MD=2.7, 95% CI 1.11 to 4.29, p=0.0009); weakly, positively improve memory (immediately recall: SMD=0.29, 95% CI 0.13 to 0.46, p=0.0005; delay recall: SMD=0.22, 95% CI 0.09 to 0.34, p=0.0005). No significant improvement was found in other domains of cognition.

Conclusions Aerobic exercise led to an improvement in global cognitive ability and had a positive effect with a small effect size on memory in people with MCI. However, owing to the limitations of the included studies, these findings should be interpreted cautiously.

  • Aerobic fitness
  • Neurology
  • Elderly people
  • Intervention efficacy
  • Meta-analysis

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • GZ and RX contributed equally.

  • Contributors LC, GZ and JT conceived and designed the study. RX and WZ performed the search, extraction of data and methodological assessment. RX and GZ analysed the data and wrote the paper. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (, grant no.81574045), and the Collaboration Innovation Center for Rehabilitation Technology (X2015001-Collaboration), Fujian provincial rehabilitation industrial institution, and Fujian Key Laboratory of Rehabilitation Technology.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Linked Articles