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Associations Between Short and Long Bouts of Physical Activity with Executive Function in Older Adults

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Abstract

Greater amounts of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) are frequently associated with better cognitive function in older adults. The 2008 US physical activity guidelines recommended obtaining activity in at least 10-min bouts to achieve health benefits. In the context of brain health, the parameters of MVPA that are necessary to achieve and optimize cognitive benefits are not well understood. Here, we examined whether the association between MVPA and executive function in older adults varied as a function of whether activity was primarily obtained by engaging in MVPA bouts lasting < 10 min compared to engaging in MVPA bouts lasting ≥ 10 min. We collected data on 96 community-dwelling adults aged 55–86 years (mean = 65.77 ± 7.97) without dementia. Executive function was assessed by performance on Stroop and Flanker tasks. MVPA was measured using a multi-sensor SenseWear armband. Consistent with prior literature, after controlling for age, gender, race, body mass index, and time wearing the armband, greater amounts of MVPA were associated with lower Stroop and Flanker interference (all p values ≤ .018). After dividing the MVPA into bouts, we found that MVPA accumulated in bouts of ≥ 10 min was negatively associated with Stroop and Flanker incongruent RT and Stroop interference (all p values ≤ .029). When examining MVPA accumulated in bouts that were < 10 min in duration, we found a negative association with Flanker incongruent condition response time (p = .011). However, in both of these analyses, after controlling for total accumulated minutes of MVPA, only the association between MVPA in bouts of < 10 min was with Flanker incongruent RT (p = .019). These results suggest that total accumulated minutes of MVPA, independent of the duration of the bout, may be most important in relation to cognitive performance in older adults. Our results may have important implications for physical activity recommendations in older adults and support that accumulating MVPA in bouts < 10 min in duration may also have significant cognitive benefits.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank Mary Crisafio, Patrick Donahue, William Woods, and Geneva Litz for their assistance with data management and analysis. K.I.E. was supported by the National Institutes of Health grants R01 CA196762, R01 AG053952, P30 MH90333, and P30 AG024827. J.C.P. was supported by the Behavioral Brain Research Training Program through the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, funded by the National Institutes of General Medical Science grant T32 GM081760.

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Correspondence to Jamie C. Peven.

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Peven, J.C., Grove, G.A., Jakicic, J.M. et al. Associations Between Short and Long Bouts of Physical Activity with Executive Function in Older Adults. J Cogn Enhanc 2, 137–145 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41465-018-0080-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41465-018-0080-5

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