Exercise, Fitness, and Neurocognitive Function in Older Adults: The “Selective Improvement” and “Cardiovascular Fitness” Hypotheses
- 1.3k Downloads
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
KeywordsStroop Wisconsin Card Sort Test Cardiorespiratory fitness Executive processing Aerobic exercise
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.
- 2.Park DC, Polk TA, Mikels JA, Taylor SF, Marshuetz C. Cerebral aging: Integration of brain and behavioral models of cognitive function. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience. 2001; 3: 151–165.Google Scholar
- 32.Dustman RE, Emmerson R, Shearer D. Physical activity, age, and cognitive neuropsychological function. J Aging Phys Act. 1994; 2: 143–181.Google Scholar
- 37.Kramer AF, Hahn S, McAuley E. Influence of aerobic fitness on the neurocognitive function of older adults. J Aging Phys Act. 2000; 8: 379–385.Google Scholar
- 41.American College of Sports Medicine. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; 2006.Google Scholar
- 42.Rikli RE, Jones CJ. Functional fitness normative scores for community-residing older adults, ages 60–94. J Aging Phys Act. 1999; 7: 162–181.Google Scholar
- 43.Rikli RE, Jones CJ. Senior Fitness Test Manual. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2001.Google Scholar
- 45.Smith A. Symbol Digit Modalities Test manual, Revised 1982. Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services; 1982.Google Scholar
- 47.Rikli RE, Jones CJ. The reliability and validity of a 6-minute walk test as a measure of physical endurance in older adults. J Aging Phys Act. 1998; 6: 363–375.Google Scholar
- 50.Etnier J. Interrelationships of exercise, mediator variables, and cognition. In: Spirduso WW, Poon LW, Chodzko-Zajko W, eds. Exercise and its Mediating Effects on Cognition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2008: 13–30.Google Scholar
- 55.Hall EE, Petruzzello SJ. Frontal asymmetry, dispositional affect, and physical activity in older adults. J Aging Phys Act. 1999; 7: 76–90.Google Scholar
- 56.Colcombe SJ, Erickson KI, Scalf PE, et al. Aerobic exercise training increases brain volume in aging humans. J Gerontol Med Sci. 2006; 61A: 1166–1170.Google Scholar
- 58.Chodzko-Zajko W. National blueprint: Increasing physical activity among adults 50 and older: Implications for future physical activity and cognitive functioning research. In: Poon LW, Chodzko-Zajko W, Tomporowski RD, eds. Active Living, Cognitive Functioning, and Aging. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; 2006: 1–14.Google Scholar
- 66.Colcombe SJ, Erickson KI, Raz N, et al. Aerobic fitness reduces brain tissue loss in aging humans. J Gerontol Med Sci. 2003; 58A: 176–180.Google Scholar