Associations between physical exercise type, fluid intelligence, executive function, and processing speed in the oldest-old (85 +)

Brian Duy Ho, Joseph M. Gullett, Stephen Anton, Mary Kathryn Franchetti, Pradyumna K. Bharadwaj, David A. Raichlen, Gene E. Alexander, Tatjana Rundek, Bonnie Levin, Kristina Visscher, Adam J. Woods, Ronald A. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: While much is known about the effects of physical exercise in adult humans, literature on the oldest-old (≥ 85 years old) is sparse. The present study explored the relationship between self-reported engagement in physical exercise and cognition in the oldest-old. Methods: The sample included 184 cognitively healthy participants (98 females, MoCA mean score = 24.81) aged 85 to 99 years old (mean = 88.49 years). Participants completed the Community Healthy Activities Model Program for Seniors (CHAMPS) questionnaire and a cognitive battery including NIH-TB, Coding, Symbol Search, Letter Fluency, and Stroop task. Three groups of participants – sedentary (n = 58; MoCA mean score = 24; 36 females; mean age = 89.03), cardio (n = 60; MoCA mean score = 25.08; 29 females; mean age = 88.62), and cardio + strength training (n = 66; MoCA mean score = 25.28; 33 females; mean age = 87.91) – were derived from responses on CHAMPS. Results: Analyses controlled for years of education, NIH-TB Crystallized Composite, and metabolic equivalent of tasks. The cardio + strength training group had the highest cognitive performances overall and scored significantly better on Coding (p < 0.001) and Symbol Search (p < 0.05) compared to the sedentary group. The cardio + strength training group scored significantly better on Symbol Search, Letter Fluency, and Stroop Color-Word compared to the cardio group (p < 0.05). Conclusions: Our findings suggest self-reported exercise in the oldest-old is linked to better performance on cognitive measures of processing speed and executive functioning, and that there may be a synergistic effect of combining aerobic and resistance training on cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-503
Number of pages13
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2024


  • Cognition
  • Cross-sectional study
  • Healthy aging
  • Physical exercise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • veterinary (miscalleneous)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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