Physical activity has been shown to maintain and improve cognitive functioning in the elderly population.

Physical activity has been shown to maintain and improve cognitive functioning in the elderly population.

Physical activity has been shown to maintain and improve cognitive functioning in the elderly population. Information from current research was gathered pertaining to the effects that physical and recreational activity have on cognitive function in older adults. Low intensity exercises do not show an improvement or maintenance in cognitive functioning. However, moderate to high intensity activity has been shown to maintain mental health. Implications to nursing practice are focused on educating elderly patients on the benefits of a regular activity regimen, teach appropriate exercises specific to persons abilities, and refer to community activity programs.

  • Moderate-intensity physical activity of 30 minutes a day 5 times a week will improve and/or maintain cognitive functioning in the elderly.
  • Exercise improves mood, activities of daily living, quality of life, and decreases pain associated with aging.
  • Exercise also decreases risk factors for vascular diseases by increasing cerebral vasculature and cardiovascular circulation.
  • Recreational activities (reading a newspaper, hand crafts, card games, and checkers) as well as physical exercise, were found to have similar effects on improving cognitive functions.
  • Recreational and moderate physical activity improves cognitive function involving executive control, planning, scheduling, working memory, and task coordination.
  • Using anticipatory guidance for patient education concerning the benefits of starting and maintaining a mental and physical exercise regimen before the age of 65 or the onset of cognitive decline is pertinent. Because long term physical activity offers the best potential for maintaining health, but adoption of an active lifestyle can still benefit sedentary older adults.
  • Elderly people who performed mind and body exercise, such as Tai Chi and yoga regularly, show better cognitive functioning than others who do not. With exercise interventions on elderly with mild cognitive impairment, subjects who participated in mind and body exercise regimens showed improvement in global cognitive function, delayed recall, and subjective cognitive complaints. It also showed improvement in memory tests, mini mental status exams, geriatric depression scale, and attention test.

Boyle, P., Buchman, A., Wilson, R., Leurgans, S., Bennett, D. (2010). Physical frailty is associated with incident mild cognitive impairment in community-based older persons. The American Geriatrics Society, 58 (2), 248-255.

Eggermont, L.H., Milberg, W.P., Lipsitz, L.A., Scherder, E.J., Leveille, S.G. (2009). Physical activity and executive function in aging: the mobilize boston study. The American Geriatrics Society, 57,1750-1756.

Enturelli, M., Lanza, M., Muti, E., & Schena, F. (2010). Positive effects of physical training in activity of daily living-dependent older adults. Experimental Aging Research, 36, 190-205.

Kruger, J., Buchner, D., & Prohaska, T. (2009). The prescribed amount of physical activity in randomized clinical trials in older adults. The Gerontologist, 49(1), 100-107.

Lam, L., Chow, R., Wong, B., Fung, A., Lvi, V., Tam, C., et al.(2011). Interim follow up of a randomized controlled trial comparing Chinese style mind body (Tai Chi) and stretching exercises on cognitive function in subjects at risk of progressive cognitive decline. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 26, 733-740.

Lindwall, M., Rennemark, M., Berggren, T. (2008). Movement in mind: The relationship of exercise with cognitive status for older adults in the Swedish National Study on Aging and care (SNAC). Aging & Mental Health, 12 (2), 212-220.

Man, D., Tsang, W., Hui-chan, C. (2010). Do older T’chi prationiners have better attention and memory function? The Journal of Alternatives and Complementary Medicine, 16, (12), 1259-1264.

Maki, Y. Ura, C., Yamaguchi, T., Murai, T., Isahai, M., & kaino, A., et. al. (2012). Effects of intervention using a community-based walking program for frevention of mental decline: a randomized controlled trial. The American Geriatrics Society, 601, 505-510.

Snowden, M., Steinman, L., Mochan K., Grodstein, F., Prohaska, T.R., & Thurman, D.J., et. al. (2011). Effect of exercise on cognitive performance in community-dwelling older adult: review of intervention trials and recommendations for public health practice and research. The American Geriatrics Society, 59, 704-716.

Varela, S., Ayan, C., Cancela, J.M., & Martin, V. (2011). Effects of two different intensities & aerobic exercises on elderly people with mild cognitive impairment: a randomized pilot study. Clinical Rehabilitation, 26 (5), 442-450.

  • Utilized CINAHL database.
  • Search criteria
  • Linked full text
  • ≤ 5 years
  • Key terms
  • exercise, cognitive function, elderly, physical activity, mental status.

The significance to nursing practice is that physical and mental activity has a positive effect on cognitive function. In addition, it increase quality of life, activities of daily living, and it decreases depression in the elderly population.







Delete me & place your


in this area.

Does physical activity prevent cognitive decline in the elderly?

Move the Body, Save the Mind

Tracey Burris, Sarah Cook, Bridgette Hunt, May Morgan

Arkansas Tech University

  • Educate patients and family on how 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week can maintain and/or improve cognitive ability.
  • Start education and activity before age 65 or before cognitive decline is present. This is because long term physical activity maintains cognitive ability better than short term.
  • Demonstrate and provide information (written and verbal) on activities within their abilities; such as stretching, walking, swimming, golfing, biking, stationary chair exercises, aerobics, playing games, reading, hand crafts, and lifting dumbbells.
  • Refer and encourage patients to a community senior center that provides social activities, physical activities, and support.
  • Advocate for physical activity in the hospital settings (fitness center) for all age groups.


The purpose of this poster was to determine the current research findings on the effects of physical activity in maintaining cognitive function in adults 65 and older.




Comments are closed.