Effects of physical exercise on cognitive functioning in the elderly

  • Timothy D. Van Sickle
  • Michel Hersen
  • Edward R. Simco
  • Michael A. Melton
  • Vincent B. Van Hasselt


In this paper, we summarize the effects of aging on physiological and cognitive processes in elderly individuals, discuss the ameliorative effects of physical exercising on these processes, and present a review of previous reports of the effects of physical exercise on cognitive functioning in the elderly. We also underscore issues concerning research design and methodology. Thirteen of 18 studies provided sufficient information for calculation of statistical power and effect sizes. Although these studies included a total of 87 statistical tests, the power exceeded. 4 in only 10 instances. Despite inadequate power, effects of exercise were strong enough to yield significant results (<.05) in 23 of these tests. Of the 87 effect sizes determined by using pre- to postassessment data for the exercise group, 56 fell within the very small to medium range (.04 to .49), and 15 fell within the medium to large range (.05 to 1.59). We conclude that exercise promotes modest changes in cognitive functioning in the aged. Given demonstrated improvements in both physical and psychological health, a sound empirical basis exists for prescription of exercise for older adults.

Key Words

physical exercise exercise cognitive functioning 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy D. Van Sickle
    • 1
  • Michel Hersen
    • 1
  • Edward R. Simco
    • 1
  • Michael A. Melton
    • 1
  • Vincent B. Van Hasselt
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Psychological StudiesNova Southeastern UniversityFort Lauderdale

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