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Effects of an In-home Multicomponent Exergame Training on Physical Functions, Cognition, and Brain Volume of Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial

: Adcock, M.; Fankhauser, M.; Post, J.; Lutz, K.; Zizlsperger, L.; Luft, A.R.; Guimarães, V.; Schättin, A.; Bruin, E.D. de

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Frontiers in medicine 6 (2020), Art. 321, 18 S.
ISSN: 2296-858X
Zeitschriftenaufsatz, Elektronische Publikation
Fraunhofer AICOS ()

Aging is associated with a decline in physical functions, cognition and brain structure. Considering that human life is based on an inseparable physical-cognitive interplay, combined physical-cognitive training through exergames is a promising approach to counteract age-related impairments. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of an in-home multicomponent exergame training on [i] physical and cognitive functions and [ii] brain volume of older adults compared to a usual care control group. Thirty-seven healthy and independently living older adults aged 65 years and older were randomly assigned to an intervention (exergame training) or a control (usual care) group. Over 16 weeks, the participants of the intervention group absolved three home-based exergame sessions per week (à 30–40 min) including Tai Chi-inspired exercises, dancing and step-based cognitive games. The control participants continued with their normal daily living. Pre- and post-measurements included assessments of physical (gait parameters, functional muscle strength, balance, aerobic endurance) and cognitive (processing speed, short-term attention span, working memory, inhibition, mental flexibility) functions. T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging was conducted to assess brain volume. Thirty-one participants (mean age = 73.9 ± 6.4 years, range = 65–90 years, 16 female) completed the study. Inhibition and working memory significantly improved post-intervention in favor of the intervention group [inhibition: F(1) = 2.537, p = 0.046, n2p = 0.11, working memory: F(1) = 5.872, p = 0.015, n2p = 0.02]. Two measures of short-term attentional span showed improvements after training in favor of the control group [F(1) = 4.309, p = 0.038, n2p = 0.03, F(1) = 8.504, p = 0.004, n2p = 0.04]. No significant training effects were evident for physical functions or brain volume. Both groups exhibited a significant decrease in gray matter volume of frontal areas and the hippocampus over time. The findings indicate a positive influence of exergame training on executive functioning. No improvements in physical functions or brain volume were evident in this study. Better adapted individualized training challenge and a longer training period are suggested. Further studies are needed that assess training-related structural brain plasticity and its effect on performance, daily life functioning and healthy aging.