Relationships Between Physical Exercise and Cognitive Abilities in Older Adults

Document Type



Psychology (Scripps)

Publication Date



Cognitive Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


We investigated relationship between physical exercise and the cognitive abilities of older adults. We hypothesized that the performance of vigorous exercisers would be superior to that of sedentary individuals on measures of reasoning, working memory, and reaction time (RT). We gave a series of cognitive tasks to 62 older men and women who exercised vigorously and 62 sedentary men and women. Multivariate and univariate analyses of variance (ANOVAs), with age and education as covariates, indicated that the performance of the exercisers was significantly better on measures of reasoning, working memory, and RT. Between-group differences persisted when vocabulary, on which the performance of exercisers was superior, was used as third covariate. Subsequent analyses showed that neither self-rated health, medical conditions, nor medications contributed to the differences between exercise groups. Results suggest that the possible contribution of physical exercise to individual differences in cognition among older adults should be further investigated

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© 1989 American Psychological Association

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