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Journal of Aging Research
Volume 2013, Article ID 861893, 10 pages
Research Article

Physical Activity Improves Verbal and Spatial Memory in Older Adults with Probable Mild Cognitive Impairment: A 6-Month Randomized Controlled Trial

1Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia (UBC), 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4
2Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia (UBC), 212-2177 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z3
3Alzheimer Clinic, G37 Purdy Pavilion, UBC Hospital, University of British Columbia (UBC), 2211 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 2B5
4Brain Research Centre, University of British Columbia (UBC), 2211 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 2B5
5Department of Psychology, The University of Iowa, E11 Seashore Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242-1409, USA

Received 1 November 2012; Accepted 18 January 2013

Academic Editor: Louis Bherer

Copyright © 2013 Lindsay S. Nagamatsu et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


We report secondary findings from a randomized controlled trial on the effects of exercise on memory in older adults with probable MCI. We randomized 86 women aged 70–80 years with subjective memory complaints into one of three groups: resistance training, aerobic training, or balance and tone (control). All participants exercised twice per week for six months. We measured verbal memory and learning using the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT) and spatial memory using a computerized test, before and after trial completion. We found that the aerobic training group remembered significantly more items in the loss after interference condition of the RAVLT compared with the control group after six months of training. In addition, both experimental groups showed improved spatial memory performance in the most difficult condition where they were required to memorize the spatial location of three items, compared with the control group. Lastly, we found a significant correlation between spatial memory performance and overall physical capacity after intervention in the aerobic training group. Taken together, our results provide support for the prevailing notion that exercise can positively impact cognitive functioning and may represent an effective strategy to improve memory in those who have begun to experience cognitive decline.