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The Effect of Aerobic Exercise on White Matter Hyperintensity Progression May Vary by Sex

  • Elizabeth Dao (a1) (a2), Cindy K. Barha (a1) (a2), John R. Best (a1) (a2), Ging-Yuek Hsiung (a2) (a3), Roger Tam (a4) and Teresa Liu-Ambrose (a1) (a2) (a5)...


This study explored the efficacy of aerobic training (AT) in mitigating white matter hyperintensity (WMH) progression and whether these changes are sex dependent. This was an exploratory analysis of a randomized controlled trial assessing the effect of AT on cognition in people with vascular cognitive impairment. Participants were randomized to a 6 month AT or usual care (control [CON]) group. A subset completed magnetic resonance imaging to quantify WMH volume. Using an analysis of covariance model, we found a significant sex × group interaction (p = .03). Over the 6 month study, AT females demonstrated greater WMH progression than CON females (p = .05). Among males, there was no significant between-group difference (p = .31). Within the AT group, males demonstrated significantly less WMH progression than females (p = .01) at 6 months. Therefore, the effects of AT on WMH progression may vary by sex; that is, AT may curtail WMH progression in males but not females.

Cette étude a exploré l’efficacité de l’entraînement aérobie (EA) pour atténuer la progression de l’hyperintensité de la matière blanche (HMB) et les différences liées au sexe pour cette intervention. Un essai contrôlé randomisé a été mené pour évaluer l’effet de l’EA sur la cognition de personnes ayant un déficit cognitif d’origine vasculaire. Les participants ont été répartis aléatoirement entre deux groupes : 6 mois d’EA ou soins standards (groupe contrôle). Dans un sous-groupe de participants, l’imagerie par résonance magnétique a été utilisée pour quantifier le volume affecté par la HMB. Un modèle d’analyse de la covariance a permis de mettre en évidence une interaction sexe x groupe significative (p = 0,03). En effet, les femmes du groupe EA ont démontré une plus grande progression de l’hyperintensité de la matière blanche que les femmes du groupe contrôle (p = 0,05) pendant la durée de cette étude (6 mois). Chez les hommes, aucune différence n’a été observée entre les deux groupes (p = 0,31). Dans le groupe EA, les hommes ont montré une progression significativement moindre de la HMB, comparativement aux femmes (p = 0,01) après 6 mois. Ainsi, les effets de l’EA sur la progression de la HMB pourraient varier selon le sexe, et l’EA pourrait freiner la progression de la HMB chez les hommes, mais non chez les femmes.


Corresponding author

La correspondance et les demandes de tirés-à-part doivent être adressées à : / Correspondence and requests for offprints should be sent to: Teresa Liu-Ambrose, Ph.D. Department of Physical Therapy University of British Columbia (UBC) 212 – 2177 Wesbrook Mall Vancouver Canada V6T 1Z3 (


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Funding for this study was provided by the Canadian Stroke Network and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.



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