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
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
The purpose of the current study was to prospectively test the utility of a social cognitive theory (SCT) model of physical activity behavior over an 18-month period in middle-aged and older adults (N = 321; M age = 63.8 years).
Participants completed measures of self-efficacy, disability limitations, goals, outcome expectations, and physical activity at baseline and follow-up. Self-efficacy was hypothesized to influence physical activity both directly and indirectly through goals and outcome expectations. Relationships were examined using panel analysis within a covariance modeling framework.
The model provided an excellent fit to the data (χ2 = 36.16, df = 30, p = .20; comparative fit index = 1.00; root mean square error of approximation = .03). At baseline, self-efficacy was directly related to outcome expectations, disability limitations, goals, and physical activity and indirectly related to physical activity through physical outcome expectations. Changes in self-efficacy were significantly related to residual changes in outcome expectations, disability limitations, goals, and physical activity and indirectly related to residual changes in physical activity through changes in physical and social outcome expectations.
These results provide further support for the use of SCT to physical activity behavior in middle-aged and older adults. Self-efficacy influenced physical activity both directly and indirectly via outcome expectations, suggesting that these variables should be targeted in physical activity interventions for middle-aged and older adults.
Middle aged; Older adults; Physical activity; Social cognitive theory
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
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
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.
Deterioration of the hippocampus occurs in elderly individuals with and without dementia, yet individual variation exists in the degree and rate of hippocampal decay. Determining the factors that influence individual variation in the magnitude and rate of hippocampal decay may help promote lifestyle changes that prevent such deterioration from taking place. Aerobic fitness and exercise are effective at preventing cortical decay and cognitive impairment in older adults and epidemiological studies suggest that physical activity can reduce the risk for developing dementia. However, the relationship between aerobic fitness and hippocampal volume in elderly humans is unknown. In this study, we investigated whether individuals with higher levels of aerobic fitness displayed greater volume of the hippocampus and better spatial memory performance than individuals with lower fitness levels. Furthermore, in exploratory analyses, we assessed whether hippocampal volume mediated the relationship between fitness and spatial memory. Using a region-of-interest analysis on magnetic resonance images in 165 nondemented older adults, we found a triple association such that higher fitness levels were associated with larger left and right hippocampi after controlling for age, sex, and years of education, and larger hippocampi and higher fitness levels were correlated with better spatial memory performance. Furthermore, we demonstrated that hippocampal volume partially mediated the relationship between higher fitness levels and enhanced spatial memory. Our results clearly indicate that higher levels of aerobic fitness are associated with increased hippocampal volume in older humans, which translates to better memory function.
aging; MRI; spatial memory; cognition; brain
Studies examining physical activity behavior suggest that activity levels decline with age. Such declines are particularly problematic among older adults in light of the research suggesting a protective effect of physical activity on numerous physical health outcomes associated with independent living. Despite a growing recognition of the importance of a physically active lifestyle, little is known about the role of demographic and psychosocial variables on this trajectory of change. In this study, the roles played by outcome expectations, self-efficacy, and functional limitations on changes in physical activity levels over a 2-year period in older women were assessed using latent growth curve modeling. Data were obtained from 249 community-dwelling older women (M age = 68.12, n = 81 Black, and n = 168 White). Demographic, health status, and psychosocial data were collected via self-report upon entry into the study. Self-reported physical activity was assessed at baseline and again at 12 and 24 months. As expected, physical activity declined over the 2-year period. Self-efficacy demonstrated an indirect association with the trajectory of decline in physical activity through functional limitations. Importantly, the pattern of relationships appears independent of demographic factors and chronic health conditions.
Physical activity; Social cognitive; Women
In spite of consistent evidence to suggest that being more physically active is associated with enhanced quality of life (QOL), there have been remarkably few attempts to determine the possible underlying mechanisms in this relationship.
To prospectively examine the roles played by self-efficacy and physical and mental health status in the physical activity and quality of life relationship in older women.
Older women (M age = 68.12 years) completed measures of physical activity, self-efficacy relative to balance, mental and physical health status, and global QOL at baseline (N = 249) and 24-month follow-up (N = 217). Demographics and general health information were assessed at baseline. A panel analysis within a covariance modeling framework was used to analyze the data.
Analyses indicated that changes in physical activity over time were associated with residual changes in self-efficacy. Changes in self-efficacy were significantly associated with residual changes in physical and mental health status. Only changes in mental health status were significantly related to residual changes in global QOL.
Results from this study support the role of self-efficacy in the relationship between physical activity and QOL. Future physical activity promotion programs should include strategies to enhance self-efficacy for physical activity to be most effective for this population.
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.
Outcome expectations, an important element of social cognitive theory, have been associated with physical activity in older adults. Yet, the measurement of this construct has often adopted a unidimensional approach. We examined the validity of a theoretically consistent three-factor (physical, social, and self-evaluative) outcome expectations exercise scale in middle-aged and older adults (N = 320; M age = 63.8). Participants completed questionnaires assessing outcome expectations, physical activity, self-efficacy, and health status. Comparisons of the hypothesized factor structure with competing models indicated that a three-factor model provided the best fit for the data. Construct validity was further demonstrated by significant association with physical activity and self-efficacy and differential associations with age and health status. Further evidence of validity and application to social cognitive models of physical activity is warranted.
Outcome expectations; Exercise; 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
Physical activity has been consistently associated with enhanced quality of life (QOL) in older adults. However, the nature of this relationship is not fully understood. In this study of community dwelling older adults, we examined the proposition that physical activity influences global QOL through self-efficacy and health-status.
Participants (N = 321, M age = 63.8) completed measures of physical activity, self-efficacy, global QOL, physical self worth, and disability limitations. Data were analyzed using covariance modeling to test the fit of the hypothesized model.
Analyses indicated direct effects of a latent physical activity variable on self-efficacy but not disability limitations or physical self-worth; direct effects of self-efficacy on disability limitations and physical self worth but not QOL; and direct effects of disability limitations and physical self-worth on QOL.
Our findings support the role of self-efficacy in the relationship between physical activity and QOL as well as an expanded QOL model including both health status indicators and global QOL. These findings further suggest future PA promotion programs should include strategies to enhance self-efficacy, a modifiable factor for improving QOL in this population.