A-22 Free Communication/Poster – Exercise, Cognition and Stress Reactivity: MAY 30, 2007 7:30 AM - 12:30 PM ROOM: Hall E
The literature on physical activity and cognition in older adults has produced equivocal results regarding whether physical activity is beneficial to cognitive performance during aging. This lack of consensus may be due to the cross-sectional nature of the research, thus indicating a need for longitudinal intervention research to determine whether a casual effect exists.
PURPOSE: The purpose of the present study was to determine whether a 12-week aerobic training program (i.e., walking) influenced neurocognitive function in older men and women.
METHODS: 26 sedentary participants (62-88 yrs) were randomly assigned to either an exercise training group or a nonexercise control group. The exercise group performed 60 min of walking twice a week for 12 weeks. The control group was instructed not to make any changes in their lifestyle during the study. All participants performed a response compatibility task prior to and after the intervention, including measures of task performance (reaction time [RT], error rate), P3 amplitude and P3 latency. The response compatibility task assesses inhibitory control related to selective attention, which is one aspect of executive control. Executive control describes higher order cognition that has been found to decay during aging. This task was selected because previous research observed general Benefits of fitness training on cognitive function that were selectively larger for tasks requiring extensive executive control.
RESULTS: P3 latency was shorter following 12 weeks of exercise. This effect was not found for the control group. The other measures of cognitive function (RT, error rate, and P3 amplitude) remained unchanged across both groups.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that cognitive processing speed (i.e., P3 latency) in older adults can be improved by an aerobic exercise program of only 12 weeks on tasks that require variable amounts of executive control. However, behavioral measures were not changed by aerobic training in the present study, suggesting that neuroelectric measures may be more sensitive to changes in physical activity behavior. Finally, these findings provide additional support for the beneficial effects of physical activity on executive control cognition during older adulthood, and suggest that exercise may protect against cognitive aging.