Healthy but inactive non-smokers aged between 50 and 80 who are worried about changes in their memory – such as forgetting names they once knew – are potential candidates for the study.
Winthrop Professor Daniel Green, of the School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health, said recent studies suggested that exercise prevented cognitive decline and may even increase the number and function of nerve cells in the brain. However, the best type of exercise to achieve this result in humans remained unknown.
“In this experiment we will study the impact of different forms of exercise on brain blood flow and function,” Professor Green said. “Our aims are to understand the mechanisms responsible for the benefits of exercise as we age and to optimise exercise interventions.”
The Preventia study will target older adults who have concerns about their memory but have not actually been diagnosed with any cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers will trial two different types of exercise (land-based and water-based walking) to see if one is better than the other at improving how the brain works – in particular the blood flow in the brain.
Research Associate Professor Kay Cox, of the School of Sport Science, Exercise and Health – who was involved in previous research which demonstrated that walking improves memory or cognition – said the results of the new study would help researchers develop exercise programs that could achieve optimal results for brain health.
“Older adults often worry about forgetting things such as where they put their keys, names they once knew, or forgetting why they walked into a room,” she said. “This study will provide an opportunity for them to find out how exercise might improve their brain fitness.”
Researchers are looking for healthy, non-smoking, inactive men and post-menopausal women over 50 who have concerns about their memory but do not have diagnosed cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease. Inactive is defined as not doing more than 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week.
Volunteers will be allocated to one of three groups – an education group, a land-based walking group, or a water-based walking group. A fully supervised six-month exercise program will be conducted three times a week at the UWA Nedlands campus. Participants will undergo fitness, health and cognitive assessments at the start of the program and after six and 12 months.
Potential candidates for the Preventia study should contact Angela Spence on 6488 2378 during office hours.