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Open Access Highly Accessed Study protocol

The brain-in-motion study: effect of a 6-month aerobic exercise intervention on cerebrovascular regulation and cognitive function in older adults

Amanda V Tyndall12, Margie H Davenport12, Ben J Wilson3, Grazyna M Burek12, Genevieve Arsenault-Lapierre124, Eryka Haley12, Gail A Eskes1567, Christine M Friedenreich101189, Michael D Hill1012234, David B Hogan1013234, R Stewart Longman142, Todd J Anderson1516, Richard Leigh117183, Eric E Smith101224 and Marc J Poulin1111524*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physiology & Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta T2N 4N1, Canada

2 Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta T2N 4N1, Canada

3 Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

4 Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

5 Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 2E2, Canada

6 Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 4R2, Canada

7 Department of Medicine (Neurology), Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 3A7, Canada

8 Department of Population Health Research, Alberta Health Services-Cancer Care, Calgary, Alberta, T2S 3C3, Canada

9 Department of Oncology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

10 Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

11 Faculty of Kinesiology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1N4, Canada

12 Department of Radiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

13 Brenda Stafford Foundation Chair in Geriatric Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

14 Psychology Service, Alberta Health Services, Foothills Hospital, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 2T9, Canada

15 University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

16 Department of Cardiac Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

17 Airway Inflammation Research Group, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

18 Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 4N1, Canada

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BMC Geriatrics 2013, 13:21  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-13-21

Published: 28 February 2013

Abstract

Background

Aging and physical inactivity are associated with declines in some cognitive domains and cerebrovascular function, as well as an elevated risk of cerebrovascular disease and other morbidities. With the increase in the number of sedentary older Canadians, promoting healthy brain aging is becoming an increasingly important population health issue. Emerging research suggests that higher levels of physical fitness at any age are associated with better cognitive functioning and this may be mediated, at least in part, by improvements in cerebrovascular reserve. We are currently conducting a study to determine: if a structured 6-month aerobic exercise program is associated with improvements or maintenance of both cerebrovascular function and cognitive abilities in older individuals; and, the extent to which any changes seen persist 6 months after the completion of the structured exercise program.

Methods/design

Two hundred and fifty men and women aged 55–80 years are being enrolled into an 18-month combined quasi-experimental and prospective cohort study. Participants are eligible for enrollment into the study if they are inactive (i.e., not participating in regular physical activity), non-smokers, have a body mass index <35.0 kg/m2, are free of significant cognitive impairment (defined as a Montreal Cognitive Assessment score of 24 or more), and do not have clinically significant cardiovascular, cerebrovascular disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary airway disease. Repeated measurements are done during three sequential six-month phases: 1) pre-intervention; 2) aerobic exercise intervention; and 3) post-intervention. These outcomes include: cardiorespiratory fitness, resting cerebral blood flow, cerebrovascular reserve, and cognitive function.

Discussion

This is the first study to our knowledge that will examine contemporaneously the effect of an exercise intervention on both cerebrovascular reserve and cognition in an older population. This study will further our understanding of whether cerebrovascular mechanisms might explain how exercise promotes healthy brain aging. In addition our study will address the potential of increasing physical activity to prevent age-associated cognitive decline.

Keywords:
Physical fitness; Cerebrovascular function; Cognition; Aging