Combined physical and cognitive training for older adults with and without cognitive impairment: A systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Hanna Malmberg Gavelin, Christopher Dong, Ruth Minkov, Alex Bahar-Fuchs, Kathryn A. Ellis, Nicola T. Lautenschlager, Maddison L. Mellow, Alexandra T. Wade, Ashleigh E. Smith, Carsten Finke, Stephan Krohn, Amit Lampit

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Combining physical exercise with cognitive training is a popular intervention in dementia prevention trials and guidelines. However, it remains unclear what combination strategies are most beneficial for cognitive and physical outcomes. We aimed to compare the efficacy of the three main types of combination strategies (simultaneous, sequential or exergaming) to either intervention alone or control in older adults. Randomized controlled trials of combined cognitive and physical training were included in multivariate and network meta-analyses. In cognitively healthy older adults and mild cognitive impairment, the effect of any combined intervention relative to control was small and statistically significant for overall cognitive (k = 41, Hedges’ g = 0.22, 95 % CI 0.14 to 0.30) and physical function (k = 32, g = 0.25, 95 % CI 0.13 to 0.37). Simultaneous training was the most efficacious approach for cognition, followed by sequential combinations and cognitive training alone, and significantly better than physical exercise. For physical outcomes, simultaneous and sequential training showed comparable efficacy as exercise alone and significantly exceeded all other control conditions. Exergaming ranked low for both outcomes. Our findings suggest that simultaneously and sequentially combined interventions are efficacious for promoting cognitive alongside physical health in older adults, and therefore should be preferred over implementation of single-domain training.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101232
JournalAgeing Research Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • Cognition
  • Cognitive training
  • Combined intervention
  • Network meta-analysis
  • Older adults
  • Physical exercise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Ageing
  • Molecular Biology
  • Neurology

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