Associations Between Physical and Executive Functions Among Community-Dwelling Older Men and Women

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Anna Tirkkonen
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Jenni Kulmala
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Tuomo Hänninen
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Timo Törmäkangas
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Anna Stigsdotter Neely
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Sarianna Sipilä
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Walking is a complex task requiring the interplay of neuromuscular, sensory, and cognitive functions. Owing to the age-related decline in cognitive and physical functions, walking may be compromised in older adults, for cognitive functions, especially poor performance in executive functions, is associated with slow walking speed. Hence, the aim of this study was to investigate the associations between different subdomains of executive functions and physical functions and whether the associations found differ between men and women. Multiple linear regression analysis was performed on data collected from 314 community-dwelling older adults who did not meet physical activity guidelines but had intact cognition. Our results showed that, while executive functions were associated with gait and lower extremity functioning, the associations depended partly on the executive process measured and the nature of the physical task. Moreover, the associations did not differ between the sexes.

Tirkkonen, Törmäkangas, and Sipilä are with the Gerontology Research Center, Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyvaskyla, Finland. Kulmala is with the Faculty of Social Sciences (Health Sciences), Gerontology Research Centre (GEREC), Tampere University, Tampere, Finland; Division of Clinical Geriatrics, Center for Alzheimer Research, NVS, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; and the Population Health Unit, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland. Hänninen is with NeuroCenter, Neurology, Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, Finland. Stigsdotter Neely is with the Department of Social and Psychological Studies, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden; and the Engineering Psychology, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden.

Tirkkonen (anna.a-k.tirkkonen@jyu.fi) is corresponding author.

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