Highest CardioRespiratory Fitness Best to Combat MCI

Mounting studies show exercise helps brain health of seniors with or without Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). Yet, the measures of exercise in these studies are the self-reported levels of physical activity - a subjective measure. On the other hand, the latest study, for the first time, used an objective measure for physical activity, namely, CardioRespiratory Fitness or CRF.

Now, the self-reported levels of physical activity, used in previous studies, correlated positively with White Matter (WM) integrity and with cognitive performance. By the way, people with MCI have noticeable problems with memory and reasoning.


Most of all, factors that raise the risk of developing MCI are the same factors for development of dementia. In fact, these factors are:

  1. 1
    First of all, advancing age
  2. 2
    Also conditions that increase risk of cardiovascular disease
  3. 3
    Finally, a family history of dementia

Furthermore, there are several types of MCI.

  1. 1
    First of all, there is Amnestic MCI, in which memory is significantly impaired
  2. 2
    And, there is non-amnestic MCI, in which the memory remains intact, but one (single domain) or more (multiple domain) other cognitive abilities (e.g., language, visual-spatial skills, executive functioning) are significantly impaired:
  • Furthermore, in a single domain MCI, only memory or one other domain is cognitively impaired
  • Finally, in multiple domain MCI, memory and one or more other cognitive abilities are affected

Especially relevant, the newest study investigated people with amnestic MCI. Moreover, amnestic MCI affects memory. Also, amnestic MCI causes problems such as forgetting names, appointments, events, conversations, or other information that previously had been easy to recall.

White Matter

Now, white matter houses millions of bundles of nerve fibers. Furthermore these nerve fibers connect brain cells or neurons in all parts of the brain. In addition, these nerve fibers convey messages between different parts of the brain. Most of all, white matter integrity indicates how well brain areas communicate with each other. And, as white matter breaks down, the connections between different parts of the brain deteriorate.


Meanwhile, the newest study used CRF, as an objective measure of exercise. Most of all, CRF is the maximal oxygen uptake (vo2max). So, exercise is quantified by using the maximum oxygen consumption during aerobic exercise.  And, the vo2max test measures the maximum oxygen consumption. Furthermore, The American Heart Association recognizes vo2max as an objective way to measure cardiovascular fitness.

Study Relates CRF with White Matter Integrity

Now, the newest study measured the relationship between CRF and white matter integrity, along with the cognitive performance.  First of all, the study included 81 participants. Second, the participant’s age ranged from 58 to 72 with an average age of 65. Also, 43 of the participants were women. Furthermore, 55 of the participants had amnestic MCI with slight but noticeable declines in memory and thinking. And, the remaining 26 participants were healthy and without MCI. For this reason, they served as the baseline.


Next, all the participants took the vo2max aerobic test on a treadmill. Also, they completed tests of memory and reasoning. And, their brains were examined with a type of a brain scan called Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI). Now, DTI reveals the health of the brain’s white matter. Furthermore, DTI assesses the integrity of the nerve fibers that make up white matter. Finally, DTI assesses the extent to which white matter fibers have deteriorated.

Effects of CRF

Firstly, the study showed lower levels of aerobic fitness (as quantified by vo2max) was linked to weaker white matter integrity in certain parts of the brains of participants with MCI. Furthermore, these participants had significant white matter integrity differences in memory and executive function areas of the brain.

Secondly, the study showed that, participants with MCI, had lower aerobic fitness, weak white matter integrity and did poorly on memory and reasoning test. Consequently, greater physical fitness correlates to better white matter integrity which in turn correlates to better memory and reasoning abilities.

Thirdly, the study showed that both MCI and baseline participants had no differences in global white matter fiber integrity and vo2max measures. However, closer examination showed that lower aerobic fitness is linked to weaker white matter in some parts of the brain.

Furthermore, the study of MCI participants, collected DTI measures from brain areas in which low white matter integrity is linked to poorer aerobic fitness. And these DTI measures correlated with performance on the memory and thinking test.

Thus MCI patients with higher levels of aerobic fitness linked to better white matter integrity which in turn correlated with better executive function performance.

Furthermore, other studies show efficient passage of messages between brain cells in regularly exercising seniors. And, still other recent studies show that walking 4000 steps per day boost brain function.

Conclusion: CRF Helps the Brain

In conclusion, the more intense and often, seniors do aerobic exercise the higher their CRF. And, the higher the CRF, the better the white matter fiber integrity, and better their executive function performance.

Therefore, seniors who exercise regularly, have higher CRF, higher white matter fiber integrity, and better executive function performance. Meanwhile, some examples of aerobic exercises seniors can engage in, at home, are listed below.