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Lisa A. Barella, Jennifer L. Etnier and Yu-Kai Chang

Research on the acute effects of exercise on cognitive performance by older adults is limited by a focus on nonhealthy populations. Furthermore, the duration of cognitive improvements after exercise has not been examined. Thus, this study was designed to test the immediate and delayed effects of acute exercise on cognitive performance of healthy older adults. Cognitive performance was assessed using the Stroop task. Participants were randomly assigned to an exercise (20 min of walking) or control (sitting quietly) condition. The Stroop task was administered at baseline and at 12 time points after treatment. Acute exercise resulted in better Stroop test performance immediately postexercise; however, the effects were limited to the color test. No effects of exercise on performance were observed for the Stroop interference or inhibition tests. Findings suggest that acute exercise performed by healthy older adults has short-term benefits for speed of processing but does not affect other types of cognitive functioning.

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Jennifer L. Etnier, William B. Karper, Jennifer I. Gapin, Lisa A. Barella, Yu Kai Chang and Karen J. Murphy

Background:

This pilot study was designed to test the efficacy of a physical activity program for improving psychological variables and fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) symptoms and to provide preliminary evidence regarding the effects on perceived cognitive symptoms and objectively measured cognitive performance by FMS patients.

Methods:

Sixteen women diagnosed with FMS were randomly assigned to an 18-week physical activity program or to a control condition. Psychological measures, FMS symptoms, perceived cognitive function, objective measures of cognition, and walking capacity were assessed at baseline and post-test.

Results:

At posttest, there were significant differences in fatigue (effect size, ES = 1.86), depression (ES = 1.27), FMS symptoms (ES = 1.56), self-reported cognitive symptoms (ES = 1.19), and delayed recall performance (ES = 1.16) between the physically active group and the control group, indicating that the FMS patients benefited from physical activity. Beneficial effects were also observed for 6 of the 7 objective measures of cognition and ranged from small to large (ESs = 0.26 to 1.06).

Conclusions:

Given that all FMS patients do not respond well to conventional treatments, these beneficial effects of physical activity are important. Future studies with larger samples are warranted to test the reliability of the findings for the objective measures of cognition.