Effects of Physical Activity and Exercise on the Cognitive Function of Patients with Alzheimer’s Disease: a Meta-analysis

Growing evidence supports a positive effect of physical activity on cognition in patients with AD, but the mechanism is not well understood.


  • 13 trials included, published between 2008-2017, all reporting on MMSE and duration of exercise session.
  • 673 total participants (n=342 intervention, n=331 control) enrolled; n=647 completed; 56% female; mean age=74 (range 51-89)
  • 1 study utilized moderate-to-high intensity intervention; 12 utilized moderate intensity.
  • Intervention groups showed statistically significant improvement in MMSE score [pooled SMD (95% CI)=1.12 (0.66,1.59)] following intervention, compared to control.
  • Minutes of intervention per session: Shorter sessions (≤30 min/session) yielded greater improvements in MMSE scores than longer sessions (>30 min/session) [SMD (95% CI)= 1.92 (1.55, 2.30) vs. SMD (95% CI)= 0.34 (0.08, 0.61)].
  • Hours of intervention per week: Shorter interventions (≤2 hr/week) tended to yield greater improvements in MMSE scores than longer interventions (>2 hr/week) [SMD (95% CI)= 1.74 (1.32, 2.15) vs. SMD (95% CI)= 0.76 (0.27, 1.24)].
  • Additionally, non-significant results indicated that fewer weekly sessions (<3x/week) and longer duration interventions (>16 weeks) tended to yield greater improvements in MMSE scores.