The relationship between functional status, physical fitness and cognitive performance in physically active older adults: A pilot study

Ramnath, U. and Rauch, L. and Lambert, E. V. and Kolbe-Alexander, T. L. (2018) The relationship between functional status, physical fitness and cognitive performance in physically active older adults: A pilot study. PLoS One, 13 (4). pp. 1-16.

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Objective: Ageing is associated with a progressive decline in physical function and cognitive performance which could result in a shift from an independent to a more dependent lifestyle. The aim of this research study was to assess the fitness, functional performance and cognitive ability in independently living older South Africans and to determine which fitness parameters and functional performance tests best explain the variance in cognitive function.

Design: Descriptive observational study.

Participants: Older adults with a mean age 71±4.7 years (n = 70; 28 men and 42 women) were recruited. Sixty percent of the sample completed at least secondary schooling and more than two-thirds were taking medication for a chronic medical condition.

Measurements: Self-reported physical activity was assessed using the Yale Physical Activity Survey. Fitness tests included the 6-minute walk test and Bicep Curls. The functional performance tests were; Static and Dynamic balance, Timed up and go, Sit to Stand, Grip strength and Functional Reach. The Stroop Task and 6-Item cognitive impairment test were used to measure cognitive performance. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were conducted between performance on the novel cognitive Stroop Task and functional and cognitive tests.

Results: We found significant relationships between the number of correct responses on the Stroop Task and scores on the 6-Item Cognitive Impairment test (-0.520, p < 0.01) and grip strength (r = 0.42, p< 0.01). The number of incorrect responses was inversely associated with functional reach (r = -0.445, p< 0.01). The final regression model included: age, dynamic balance, right arm grip strength and the score on the 6-item cognitive impairment test, and explained 44% of the variance in performance of the Stroop Task.

Conclusions: The results of this study showed that measures of physical function were associated with cognitive performance even in highly functioning older South African adults. Further research is needed to determine the extent to which exercise training can improve functional capacity and the effect on cognitive performance.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Copyright: © 2018 Ramnath et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Health and Wellbeing
Date Deposited: 17 Apr 2018 06:04
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2019 04:31
Uncontrolled Keywords: older adults, cognitive performance, healthy ageing, functional ability
Fields of Research : 11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science > 110699 Human Movement and Sports Science not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 92 Health > 9205 Specific Population Health (excl. Indigenous Health) > 920502 Health Related to Ageing
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0194918

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