Exercise Increases the Dynamics of Diurnal Cortisol Secretion and Executive Function in People With Amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment

in Journal of Aging and Physical Activity
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Regular physical activity is protective against, and beneficial for, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. The mechanisms underlying these benefits remain unknown although it has been suggested that exercise-induced changes in the circadian pattern of cortisol secretion may be implicated. Fitness, salivary cortisol levels (0 and 30 min postawakening, midday, 5 p.m., and 9 p.m.), and cognitive function were determined in a group of amnestic MCI patients (n = 39) before and after a three-month exercise program (n = 19) or usual care (n = 20). At baseline, fitness measures were positively correlated with peak levels of cortisol and a greater fall in cortisol concentration from peak levels to midday. The exercise intervention successfully increased fitness and resulted in a greater fall in cortisol concentration from peak to midday, compared with the control group. The exercise intervention enhanced indices of executive function, although memory, mood, and functionality were not affected.

Tortosa-Martínez and Caus-Pertegaz are with the University of Alicante, San Vicente del Raspeig, Spain. Clow is with the University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom. González-Caballero, Abellán-Miralles, and Saenz are with the Department of Neurology, Hospital de San Vicente del Raspeig, Spain.

Address author correspondence to Juan Tortosa-Martínez at juan.tortosa@ua.es.