A new study underway in London is looking at how exercise can improve cognitive function in seniors. It's called the Heart and Mind Study

Dr. Robert Petrella from the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry says, “This study is really to look at that combination of mind-motor training as well as exercise training in patients who have high blood pressure, are older and have concerns about their memory and their cognitive function.”

The study recruits seniors that suffer from high blood pressure to complete a six-month program of both exercise and cognitive tasks, Petrella explains.

“Half of those subjects who come into the program will get a regular exercise program as well as that mind-motor training but the other half...will actually get an exercise training program that’s high intensity meaning they go between very, very high levels of exercise on an exercise bike as well as more traditional lower levels of exercise.”

The research team believes the high intensity group may experience better outcomes when it comes to blood pressure levels and cognitive functions.

“One of the main reasons people have dementia is because people have high blood pressure or heart disease overall and that type of dementia is the second leading cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease so there’s really not much research with exercise and lifestyle in that type of...vascular dementia so we are studying that,” says researcher Narlon Silva.

One of the study participants, Bill McGrath, says he’s already noticed a difference in his overall health.

“The difference is too that I’ve recovered faster when I exercise and I think my blood pressure has gone down during this and I know it’s almost the same effects with my wife too.”

The research team is now looking to recruit more participants to take part in phase two of the study. Silva says they hope to have some promising results once the data from both study groups are examined.

Silva says, “The overall goal of our program is to really prevent dementia and we hope that’s what will happen with these participants. We hope the benefits of the program will last.”

Anyone interested in taking part in phase two of the study can contact the research team at: apetrel4 @ uwo.ca