To cross-validate the psychometric properties of the abbreviated Late-Life Function and Disability Instrument (LL-FDI), a measure of perceived functional limitations and disability.
Baseline and 12-month follow-up assessments conducted across the course of a 12-month exercise program.
University research community.
Older healthy adults (N=179; mean ± SD age, 66.43±5.67y) at baseline; 145 were retained at follow-up.
Main Outcome Measures
LL-FDI and functional performance measures.
Factor analyses confirmed the factor structure of the abbreviated LL-FDI, and all subscales met minimal criteria for temporal invariance. Significant correlations also were found between functional limitations subscales and an array of physical function performance measures, supporting the scale’s construct validity.
The abbreviated LL-FDI with some modifications appears to be temporally invariant in community-dwelling older adults. Additionally, moderate relationships between functional limitations and functional performance provide further support for these being conceptually distinct constructs.
Geriatrics; Longitudinal studies; Psychometrics; Rehabilitation
Over the next twenty years the number of Americans diagnosed with dementia is expected to more than double (CDC 2007). It is, therefore, an important public health initiative to understand what factors contribute to the longevity of a healthy mind. Both default mode network (DMN) function and increased aerobic fitness have been associated with better cognitive performance and reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease among older adults. Here we examine the association between aerobic fitness, functional connectivity in the DMN, and cognitive performance. Results showed significant age-related deficits in functional connectivity in both local and distributed DMN pathways. However, in a group of healthy elderly adults, almost half of the age-related disconnections showed increased functional connectivity as a function of aerobic fitness level. Finally, we examine the hypothesis that functional connectivity in the DMN is one source of variance in the relationship between aerobic fitness and cognition. Results demonstrate instances of both specific and global DMN connectivity mediating the relationship between fitness and cognition. We provide the first evidence for functional connectivity as a source of variance in the association between aerobic fitness and cognition, and discuss results in the context of neurobiological theories of cognitive aging and disease.
cognitive aging; fMRI; functional connectivity; aerobic exercise; executive function; spatial memory
Aging is marked by a decline in cognitive function, which is often preceded by losses in gray matter volume. Fortunately, higher cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) levels are associated with an attenuation of age-related losses in gray matter volume and a reduced risk for cognitive impairment. Despite these links, we have only a rudimentary understanding of whether fitness-related increases in gray matter volume lead to elevated cognitive function. In this cross-sectional study, we examined whether the association between higher aerobic fitness levels and elevated executive function was mediated by greater gray matter volume in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). One hundred and forty-two older adults (mean age = 66.6 years) completed structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, CRF assessments, and performed Stroop and spatial working memory (SPWM) tasks. Gray matter volume was assessed using an optimized voxel-based morphometry approach. Consistent with our predictions, higher fitness levels were associated with (a) better performance on both the Stroop and SPWM tasks, and (b) greater gray matter volume in several regions, including the dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC). Volume of the right inferior frontal gyrus and precentral gyrus mediated the relationship between CRF and Stroop interference while a non-overlapping set of regions bilaterally in the DLPFC mediated the association between CRF and SPWM accuracy. These results suggest that specific regions of the DLPFC differentially relate to inhibition and spatial working memory. Thus, fitness may influence cognitive function by reducing brain atrophy in targeted areas in healthy older adults.
cardiorespiratory fitness; executive function; voxel-based morphometry; cortical volume; prefrontal cortex; mediation
The Flexibility, Toning, and Balance (FlexToBa™) Trial is a two-armed randomized controlled trial which will contrast the effects of a DVD-delivered, home-based, physical activity intervention and a Healthy Aging attention control condition on physical activity, functional performance, functional limitations, and quality of life in low active, older adults. This innovative trial will recruit 300 participants across central Illinois who will be randomized into the intervention arm or control arm of the study. The intervention will last 6 months with a 6 month follow-up. Assessments at baseline, post intervention and follow-up will include physical activity (self-report and accelerometry), a battery of functional performance measures, functional limitations, quality of life, and an array of psychological health measures. In addition, measures of external validity will be included to determine public health significance of a successful outcome. Participants will engage in a progressive series of activities focusing on flexibility, strengthening, and balance exercises which are demonstrated by a trained exercise leader and age-appropriate models on a series of DVDs. Delivery of the intervention has its basis in social cognitive theory. The specific aims of the trial are (a) to determine the effects of the DVD-delivered FlexToBa™ program on physical activity, functional performance, functional limitations, and quality of life, (b) to examine the mediators of the relationships between physical activity and functional limitations and quality of life, (c) to assess external validity indicators relative to the intervention, and (d) to determine differential effects of the intervention on psychosocial health measures.
Physical activity; older adults; functional limitations; functional performance; quality of life
This study examines differential trajectories of exercise-related self-efficacy beliefs across a 12-month randomized controlled exercise trial.
Previously inactive older adults (N = 144; M age = 66.5) were randomly assigned to one of two exercise conditions (walking, flexibility-toning-balance) and completed measures of barriers self-efficacy (BARSE), exercise self-efficacy (EXSE), and self-efficacy for walking (SEW) across a 12-month period. Changes in efficacy were examined according to efficacy type and inter-individual differences. Latent growth curve modeling was employed to (a) examine average levels and change in each type of efficacy for the collapsed sample and by intervention condition, and (b) explore subpopulations (i.e., latent classes) within the sample that differ in their baseline efficacy and trajectory.
Analyses revealed two negative trends in BARSE and EXSE at predicted transition points, in addition to a positive linear trend in SEW. Two subgroups with unique baseline efficacy and trajectory profiles were also identified.
These results shed new light on the relationship between exercise and self-efficacy in older adults, and highlight the need for strategies for increasing and maintaining efficacy within interventions, namely targeting participants who start with a disadvantage (lower efficacy) and integrating efficacy-boosting strategies for all participants prior to program end.
exercise; self-efficacy; trajectories of change; aging
The purpose of this study was to extend our earlier work to determine the extent to which cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with the frequency of memory problems via its effects on the hippocampus and spatial working memory. We hypothesized that age, sex, education, body composition, and physical activity were direct determinants of fitness which, in turn, influenced frequency of forgetting indirectly through hippocampal volume and spatial working memory.
We conducted assessments of hippocampal volume, spatial working memory, frequency of forgetting, BMI, physical activity, demographic characteristics, and cardiorespiratory fitness in 158 older adults (M age = 66.49). Path analyses within a covariance modeling framework were used to examine relationships among these constructs.
Sex, age, BMI, and education were all significant determinants of cardiorespiratory fitness. The hypothesized path models testing the effects of fitness on frequency of forgetting through hippocampal volume and accuracy and speed of spatial working memory all fit the data well.
Our findings suggest that older adults with higher levels of fitness show greater preservation of hippocampal volume which, in turn, is associated with more accurate and faster spatial memory and fewer episodes of forgetting. Given the proportion of older adults reporting memory problems, it is necessary to determine whether improvements in fitness brought about by physical activity interventions can result in subsequent attenuation of memory problems or potentially improvements in memory.
Frequency of Forgetting; Hippocampus Volume; Cardiorespiratory Fitness; Spatial Memory; Older Adults
Self-efficacy and the use of self-regulatory strategies are consistently associated with physical activity behavior. Similarly, behavioral inhibition and cognitive resource allocation, indices of executive control function, have also been associated with this health behavior.
The purpose of this study was to examine the hypothesis that self-efficacy mediates the relationship between self-regulatory processes, such as executive function, and sustained exercise behavior.
Older adults (N = 177, mean age = 66.44 years) completed measures of executive function, self-reported use of self-regulatory strategies and self-efficacy prior to and during the first month of a 12-month exercise intervention. Percentage of exercise classes attended over the following 11 months was used to represent adherence. Data were collected from 2007 to 2010 and analyzed in 2010–2011. Structural equation models were tested examining the effect of executive function and strategy use on adherence via efficacy.
As hypothesized, results showed significant direct effects of two elements of executive function and of strategy use on self-efficacy and of efficacy on adherence. In addition, there were significant indirect effects of strategy use and executive function on adherence via self-efficacy.
Higher levels of executive function and use of self-regulatory strategies at the start of an exercise program enhance beliefs in exercise capabilities, which in turn leads to greater adherence.
This 12-month, 2 arm, single blind randomized controlled exercise trial examined relationships among changes in multidimensional self-esteem as a function of intervention mode (i.e., walking vs. flexibility-toning-balance). Data were collected on three equidistant occasions (baseline, 6 and 12 months). One-hundred seventy-nine older adults (Mage = 66.38) began the study and 145 completed assessments at all time points. Participants completed measures of physical and global self-esteem as well as demographic information. There were no significant group differences at baseline on these demographic indicators or esteem variables. Data were analyzed using linear and parallel process growth modeling procedures. Results supported the position that across both groups, domain-level (i.e., physical self-worth) was dependent upon sub-domain-level (i.e., perceived attractiveness, strength, and condition) esteem change. Furthermore, greater improvements were observed in the flexibility-toning-balance group, in terms of perceived strength and attractiveness esteem, compared to the walking group. Our findings support theoretically-based predictions and extend the literature showing unique psychological responses conditional on specific types of physical activities.
Self perceptions; Physical activity; Growth models; Modes of exercise
The basal ganglia play a central role in regulating the response selection abilities that are critical for mental flexibility. In neocortical areas, higher cardiorespiratory fitness levels are associated with increased gray matter volume, and these volumetric differences mediate enhanced cognitive performance in a variety of tasks. Here we examine whether cardiorespiratory fitness correlates with the volume of the subcortical nuclei that make up the basal ganglia and whether this relationship predicts cognitive flexibility in older adults. Structural MRI was used to determine the volume of the basal ganglia nuclei in a group of older, neurologically healthy individuals (mean age 66 years, N = 179). Measures of cardiorespiratory fitness (VO2max), cognitive flexibility (task switching), and attentional control (flanker task) were also collected. Higher fitness levels were correlated with higher accuracy rates in the Task Switching paradigm. In addition, the volume of the caudate nucleus, putamen, and globus pallidus positively correlated with Task Switching accuracy. Nested regression modeling revealed that caudate nucleus volume was a significant mediator of the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness, and task switching performance. These findings indicate that higher cardiorespiratory fitness predicts better cognitive flexibility in older adults through greater grey matter volume in the dorsal striatum.
There is increasing evidence that cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is associated with brain structure and function, and improvements in CRF through exercise training have been associated with neural and cognitive functioning in older adults. The objectives of this study were to validate the use of a non-exercise estimate of CRF, and to examine its association with cognitive function, brain structure and subjective memory complaints. Low active, older adults (N = 86; M age= 65.14) completed a physician-supervised maximal exercise test, a 1-mile timed walk, several measures of cognitive function, and a 3 Tesla structural MRI. Fitness was also calculated from an equation derived by (Jurca et al., 2005) based on age, sex, body mass index, resting heart rate, and self-reported physical activity level. Analyses indicated that all three measures of CRF were significantly correlated with one another. In addition, measures of cognitive function, hippocampus volume, and memory complaints were significantly correlated with each measure of fitness. These findings have implications for using a low-risk, low-cost, non-exercise estimate of CRF in determining fitness associations with brain structure and cognitive function in older adults. As such, this measure may have utility for larger population based studies. Further validation is required, as is determination of whether such relationships hold over the course of exercise interventions.
Equation-derived CRF; cognitive function; hippocampus; older adults
Aerobic exercise is a promising form of prevention for cognitive decline; however, little is known about the molecular mechanisms by which exercise and fitness impacts the human brain. Several studies have postulated that increased regional brain volume and function are associated with aerobic fitness because of increased vascularization rather than increased neural tissue per se. We tested this position by examining the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and N-acetylaspartate (NAA) levels in the right frontal cortex using magnetic resonance spectroscopy. NAA is a nervous system specific metabolite found predominantly in cell bodies of neurons. We reasoned that if aerobic fitness was predominantly influencing the vasculature of the brain, then NAA levels should not vary as a function of aerobic fitness. However, if aerobic fitness influences the number or viability of neurons, then higher aerobic fitness levels might be associated with greater concentrations of NAA. We examined NAA levels, aerobic fitness, and cognitive performance in 137 older adults without cognitive impairment. Consistent with the latter hypothesis, we found that higher aerobic fitness levels offset an age-related decline in NAA. Furthermore, NAA mediated an association between fitness and backward digit span performance, suggesting that neuronal viability as measured by NAA is important in understanding fitness-related cognitive enhancement. Since NAA is found exclusively in neural tissue, our results indicate that the effect of fitness on the human brain extends beyond vascularization; aerobic fitness is associated with neuronal viability in the frontal cortex of older adults.
Aging; brain; exercise; fitness; human; N-acetylaspartate; working memory
The purpose of this study was to validate the Physical Activity Enjoyment Scale (PACES) in a sample of older adults. Participants within two different exercise groups were assessed at two time points, 6 months apart. Group and longitudinal invariance was established for a novel, 8-item version of the PACES. The shortened, psychometrically sound measure provides researchers and practitioners an expedited and reliable instrument for assessing the enjoyment of physical activity.
Cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) is associated with a decreased risk of all-cause mortality but is rarely assessed in medical settings due to burdens of time, cost, risk, and resources. The purpose of this study was to test the construct validity of a regression equation developed by Jurca and colleagues (2005) to estimate CRF without exercise testing in community dwelling older adults.
Participants (n = 172) aged 60 to 80 years with no contraindications to submaximal or maximal exercise testing completed a maximal graded exercise test (GXT) and the submaximal Rockport 1-mile walk test on separate occasions. Data included in the regression equation (age, sex, body mass index, resting heart rate, and physical activity) were obtained via measurement or self-report. Participants also reported presence of cardiovascular conditions.
The multiple R for the regression equation was .72, p < .001 and CRF estimated from this equation was significantly correlated with the MET value from the GXT (r = 0.66) and with CRF estimated from submaximal field testing (r = 0.67). All three CRF indices were significantly and inversely associated with reporting more cardiovascular conditions.
This research provides preliminary evidence that a non-exercise estimate of CRF is at least as valid as field test estimates of CRF and represents a low-risk, low-cost, and expedient method for estimating fitness in older adults.
Research has shown the human brain is organized into separable functional networks during rest and varied states of cognition, and that aging is associated with specific network dysfunctions. The present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine low-frequency (0.008 < f < 0.08 Hz) coherence of cognitively relevant and sensory brain networks in older adults who participated in a 1-year intervention trial, comparing the effects of aerobic and non-aerobic fitness training on brain function and cognition. Results showed that aerobic training improved the aging brain's resting functional efficiency in higher-level cognitive networks. One year of walking increased functional connectivity between aspects of the frontal, posterior, and temporal cortices within the Default Mode Network and a Frontal Executive Network, two brain networks central to brain dysfunction in aging. Length of training was also an important factor. Effects in favor of the walking group were observed only after 12 months of training, compared to non-significant trends after 6 months. A non-aerobic stretching and toning group also showed increased functional connectivity in the DMN after 6 months and in a Frontal Parietal Network after 12 months, possibly reflecting experience-dependent plasticity. Finally, we found that changes in functional connectivity were behaviorally relevant. Increased functional connectivity was associated with greater improvement in executive function. Therefore the study provides the first evidence for exercise-induced functional plasticity in large-scale brain systems in the aging brain, using functional connectivity techniques, and offers new insight into the role of aerobic fitness in attenuating age-related brain dysfunction.
exercise; aging; functional connectivity; fMRI; default mode network; executive function; aerobic fitness
A growing body of literature provides evidence for the prophylactic influence of cardiorespiratory fitness on cognitive decline in older adults. This study examined the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and recruitment of the neural circuits involved in an attentional control task in a group of healthy older adults. Employing a version of the Stroop task, we examined whether higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with an increase in activation in cortical regions responsible for imposing attentional control along with an up-regulation of activity in sensory brain regions that process task-relevant representations. Higher fitness levels were associated with better behavioral performance and an increase in the recruitment of prefrontal and parietal cortices in the most challenging condition, thus providing evidence that cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with an increase in the recruitment of the anterior processing regions. There was a top-down modulation of extrastriate visual areas that process both task-relevant and task-irrelevant attributes relative to the baseline. However, fitness was not associated with differential activation in the posterior processing regions, suggesting that fitness enhances attentional function by primarily influencing the neural circuitry of anterior cortical regions. This study provides novel evidence of a differential association of fitness with anterior and posterior brain regions, shedding further light onto the neural changes accompanying cardiorespiratory fitness.
cardiorespiratory fitness; Stroop task; cognitive and attentional control