The effect of self-paced exercise intensity and cardiorespiratory fitness on frontal grey matter volume in cognitively normal older adults: a randomised controlled trial

Natalie J. Frost*, Michael Weinborn, Gilles E. Gignac, Ying Xia, Vincent Doré, Stephanie R. Rainey-Smith, Shaun Markovic, Nicole Gordon, Hamid R. Sohrabi, Simon M. Laws, Ralph N. Martins, Jeremiah J. Peiffer, Belinda M. Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: Exercise has been found to be important in maintaining neurocognitive health. However, the effect of exercise intensity level remains relatively underexplored. Thus, to test the hypothesis that self-paced high-intensity exercise and cardiorespiratory fitness (peak aerobic capacity; VO2peak) increase grey matter (GM) volume, we examined the effect of a 6-month exercise intervention on frontal lobe GM regions that support the executive functions in older adults. Methods: Ninety-eight cognitively normal participants (age = 69.06 ± 5.2 years; n = 54 female) were randomised into either a self-paced high- or moderate-intensity cycle-based exercise intervention group, or a no-intervention control group. Participants underwent magnetic resonance imaging and fitness assessment pre-intervention, immediately post-intervention, and 12-months post-intervention. Results: The intervention was found to increase fitness in the exercise groups, as compared with the control group (F = 9.88, p = <0.001). Changes in pre-to-post-intervention fitness were associated with increased volume in the right frontal lobe (β = 0.29, p = 0.036, r = 0.27), right supplementary motor area (β = 0.30, p = 0.031, r = 0.29), and both right (β = 0.32, p = 0.034, r = 0.30) and left gyrus rectus (β = 0.30, p = 0.037, r = 0.29) for intervention, but not control participants. No differences in volume were observed across groups. Conclusions: At an aggregate level, six months of self-paced high- or moderate-intensity exercise did not increase frontal GM volume. However, experimentally-induced changes in individual cardiorespiratory fitness was positively associated with frontal GM volume in our sample of older adults. These results provide evidence of individual variability in exercise-induced fitness on brain structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)902-915
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society
Volume28
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2022

Keywords

  • Brain volume
  • Cognition
  • Exercise
  • Fitness
  • Intervention
  • MRI
  • Physical activity

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