Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, 36:280 | Cite as

Exercise, Fitness, and Neurocognitive Function in Older Adults: The “Selective Improvement” and “Cardiovascular Fitness” Hypotheses

  • Ann L. Smiley-Oyen
  • Kristin A. Lowry
  • Sara J. Francois
  • Marian L. Kohut
  • Panteleimon Ekkekakis
Original Article

Abstract

Background

Although basic research has uncovered biological mechanisms by which exercise could maintain and enhance adult brain health, experimental human studies with older adults have produced equivocal results.

Purpose

This randomized clinical trial aimed to investigate the hypotheses that (a) the effects of exercise training on the performance of neurocognitive tasks in older adults is selective, influencing mainly tasks with a substantial executive control component and (b) performance in neurocognitive tasks is related to cardiorespiratory fitness.

Methods

Fifty-seven older adults (65–79 years) participated in aerobic or strength-and-flexibility exercise training for 10 months. Neurocognitive tasks were selected to reflect a range from little (e.g., simple reaction time) to substantial (i.e., Stroop Word–Color conflict) executive control.

Results

Performance in tasks requiring little executive control was unaffected by participating in aerobic exercise. Improvements in Stroop Word–Color task performance were found only for the aerobic exercise group. Changes in aerobic fitness were unrelated to changes in neurocognitive function.

Conclusions

Aerobic exercise in older adults can have a beneficial effect on the performance of speeded tasks that rely heavily on executive control. Improvements in aerobic fitness do not appear to be a prerequisite for this beneficial effect.

Keywords

Stroop Wisconsin Card Sort Test Cardiorespiratory fitness Executive processing Aerobic exercise 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (R01 AI49956) to M.L.K. and a University Research Grant to A.L.S.-O.

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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann L. Smiley-Oyen
    • 1
  • Kristin A. Lowry
    • 1
  • Sara J. Francois
    • 2
  • Marian L. Kohut
    • 1
  • Panteleimon Ekkekakis
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of KinesiologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Physical TherapyMary Greeley Medical CenterAmesUSA

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