Neither mindfulness training nor exercise improve memory or executive function in older adults

Clinical Question

Does mindfulness training, exercise, or both improve cognitive function in older adults who have subjective cognitive concerns but no dementia?

Bottom line

This study found no benefit of MBSR training, exercise, or a combination of both for improving cognitive function in older adults with subjective cognitive concerns but no dementia. Physical performance, including aerobic fitness and strength, as well as sleep quality significantly improved with exercise. MBSR did not significantly influence any independent variables, including self-reported mindfulness. 1b

Study design: Randomized controlled trial (double-blinded)

Funding: Government

Setting: Population-based


David C. Slawson, MD
Professor and Vice Chair of Family Medicine for Education and Scholarship
Atrium Health
Professor of Family Medicine, UNC Chapel Hill
Charlotte, NC

Discuss this POEM


Laurence Jerome

Mild cognitive impairment

Important negative finding

Howard Joseph Burley


I need to look more closely at the study. The problem I see in the design or reporting is that there was no assessment of adherence to the interventions. All of these measures need to be practiced regularly. In my experience the desire to change is not followed through with regular practice.

Dante Eliseo Manyari

low dose exercise

The study used exercise sessions only times a week. If I was training to run 1/2 marathon or anything else, exercising twice a week will not be enough - Is it possible that in this study the amount of exercise was sub-optimal to obtain benefits in subjects with cognitive impairment? A type I error due to design failure? WE need better studies to reject the hypothesis.


Mindfullness, exercise do little to improve cognition in th

Important to know cognition not improved with exercise.



This is a troubling outcome which challenges standard advice for decades. I am very concerned and we need replication to know how to move forward.


Impact assessment

Very good