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Twelve-week physical and leisure activity programme improved cognitive function in community-dwelling elderly subjects: a randomized controlled trial




Japan is one of the most rapidly ageing societies in the world. A number of municipalities have started services for the prevention of cognitive decline for community-dwelling elderly individuals, but the effectiveness of these services is currently insufficient. Our study explored the efficacy of a comprehensive intervention programme consisting of physical and leisure activities to prevent cognitive decline in community-dwelling elderly subjects.


We administered a 12-week intervention programme consisting of physical and leisure activities aimed at enhancing participants' motivation to participate and support one another by providing a pleasant atmosphere, empathetic communication, praise, and errorless support. This programme for the prevention of cognitive decline was conducted as a service by the city of Maebashi. All participants underwent the Five-Cog test, which evaluated the cognitive domains of attention, memory, visuospatial function, language, and reasoning. Executive function was evaluated by the Wechsler Digit Symbol Substitution Test and Yamaguchi Kanji-Symbol Substitution Test. Subjective health status, level of social support, functional capacity, subjective quality of life, and depressive symptoms were assessed with a questionnaire. Grip strength test, timed up-and-go test, 5-m maximum walking times test, and functional reach test were performed to evaluate physical function. Fifty-two participants were randomly allocated to intervention (n = 26) and control (n = 26) groups. Twenty-six participants, aged between 65–87 years, received intervention once a week at a community centre. The programme was conducted by health-care professionals, with the help of senior citizen volunteers.


The intervention group (n = 19) showed significant improvement on the analogy task of the Five-Cog test (F1,38 = 4.242, P = 0.046) and improved quality of life (F1,38 = 4.773, P = 0.035) as compared to the control group (n = 24).


A community-based 12-week intervention programme that aimed to enhance motivation to participate in activities resulted in improvements in some aspects of cognitive function and quality of life. Senior citizens who volunteered in the present intervention enabled the smooth implementation of the programme and alleviated the burden on professional staff.