This study investigated the visual attention of older expert orienteers and older adults not practicing activities with high attentional and psychomotor demands, and considered whether prolonged practice of orienteering may counteract the age-related deterioration of visual attentional performance both at rest and under acute exercise. In two discriminative reaction time experiments, performed both at rest and under submaximal physical workload, visual attention was cued by means of spatial cues of different sizes followed, at different stimulus-onset asynchronies, by compound stimuli with local and global target features. Orienteers, as compared to nonathletes, showed a faster reaction speed and a complex pattern of attentional differences depending on the time constraints of the attentional task, the demands on endogenous attentional control, and the presence or absence of a concomitant effortful motor task. Results suggest that older expert orienteers have developed attentional skills that outweigh, at least at rest, the age-related deficits of visual attentional focusing.
Pesce, Cereatti, and Casella are with the Department of Education in Sport and Human Motion; Baldari is with the Department of Health Sciences; and Capranica is with the Department of Human Movement and Sport Science.