July 1, 2020

Effect of Combined Physical Training on Cognitive Function in People with Epilepsy: Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial

Abstract, published in Epilepsia

Objective: To examine the effect of 12-week exercise program on cognitive function in people with epilepsy.

Methods: Twenty-one physically inactive subjects were randomized into two groups: the exercise group (EG) or the control group (CG). EG performed 12 weeks of combined physical training. CG was advised to maintain usual daily activities. EG received a structured, individually supervised exercise program with two 60-minute sessions per week. Each session included warmup (5-minutes), aerobic activity (15-20 minutes), strength training (2-3 sets, 10-15 repetitions), and 5-minute active stretches. Sociodemographic characteristics; clinical information; memory; executive function; concentration; verbal fluency; global cognitive function; physical measurements (weight, height, and hip and waist circumferences); cardiorespiratory fitness; and strength were measured at baseline and after the 12-week intervention.

Results: Exercise improved executive function, verbal fluency, global cognitive function. No effect was observed in any other parameter tested. Interestingly, changes in cardiorespiratory fitness were negatively associated with changes in memory. 

Significance: This randomized controlled trial provided the first evidence that combined physical training improves executive function in adults with epilepsy, showing main improvements in attention and language tasks. Physical exercise should be encouraged for people with epilepsy to reduce the burden on cognitive function associated with this disease.

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