Physical activity and information processing speed in older women: The role of exercise
Keywords:active life style, reaction time, digit symbol substitution
The present study investigated the effect of physical activity in information processing. Participants were 48 women aged 60-75 years divided in three arithmetically equal groups. Women in the first group (Μ=69.03, SD=4.34 yrs) participated in an exercise program for at least the last nine months and their physical activity, measured using the “Baecke for older adults” questionnaire, was 16.20 ΜΕΤ (SD=2.94). A random sample was used for the selection of women with corresponding age and physical activity (M=15.46, SD=4.56 MET) in order to form the second group. The women from this sample with the lower physical activity scores (M=8.04, SD=2.21 MET) and corresponding age formed the third group. Information processing speed was assessed using three tasks requiring increasingly complex cognitive processing: simple reaction to visual stimuli, choice response time (using laboratory instruments) and digit symbol substitution test (WAIS-R). According to the results, differences between the first and second group were limited in all three tasks. Low active group scored significantly lower than high active women on simple reaction time task and in the two other tasks they scored significantly lower than the exercisers. It was concluded that participation in exercise programs has more favorable effects than the high everyday physical activity on those tasks requiring complex cognitive processing.