Jessica F. Baird, PhDJessica F. Baird, PhD
Results from a study presented at the 2020 Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) Virtual Annual Meeting suggest that the use of aerobic fitness has a positive effect on physical and cognitive function in older adults with multiple sclerosis (MS) and may be used as an approach to ameliorate the consequences of aging.1

Using a Cohen’s d model, aerobic fitness was shown to have a large effect on both walking speed (d = ­­­–0.99) and walking endurance (d = 1.51). The effect of aerobic exercise on cognitive function has been shown in previous studies for other neurological disorders and was consistent with these results as well. There was a moderate effect of aerobic fitness on cognitive function (Symbol Digit Modalities Test [SDMT], d = 0.57; California Verbal Learning Test [CVLT], d = 0.48; Brief Visuospatial Memory Test [BVMT] d = 0.67).

Results also showed that aerobic fitness had varying effects on deep gray matter (DGM) structures, with little to no effect on the thalamus (d = 0.19) and hippocampus (d = –0.01) but had moderate effect on the basal ganglia (d = 0.53).

Jessica F. Baird, PhD, post-doctoral fellow, Exercise Neuroscience Research Lab, Center for Exercise Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues concluded that improvements in function may be mediated by an effect of aerobic fitness on DGM brain structures.