Physical fitness outweighs physical activity for improving cognition in seniors
Physical fitness (PF), rather than physical activity (PA), is key to better cognitive function in elderly adults, a recent study has found.
Researchers conducted a cross-sectional analysis on 6,874 elderly adults (mean age, 64.9±4.9 years; 48.5 percent female). The Chair Stand Test, along with the REGICOR and Rapid Assessment Physical Activity questionnaires, was used to assess PF and PA. Cognitive function was evaluated using the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), Control Oral Word Association Test, Trail Making Test and Digit Span tests.
PF was significantly associated with both the total MMSE score and scores in its language domain (p=0.024 for both), such that results were better in higher PF quartiles, though the increase in values was small. When taking PF as a continuous variable, however, the significance of the relationship was attenuated.
Moreover, scores in the phonemic and semantic fluency tests, as well as in the Trail Making Test, were all significantly better in higher quartiles of PF and remained so even when taking PF as a continuous variable.
PA was similarly positively correlated with phonemic and semantic fluency, though this trend was attenuated when PA was taken as a continuous variable. No links between PA and any of the neurocognitive test results were found.
“[O]ur results showed that PF, but not PA level, was associated with cognitive function, specifically with those domains related to language ability, attention, and processing speed. Undoubtedly, PA, specifically aerobic exercises, contribute to PF and thus PA could be associated with cognitive function through an improvement in PF,” said researchers.