Several approaches have been taken to evaluate the effects of physical and mental training interventions on the mental abilities of older adults. A selective review of theory-based research suggests that older adults’ mental functioning may improve following both forms of training; however, the mechanisms that underlie these changes are not well understood. Several multidisciplinary approaches are evaluated that may help to explain how both exercise and mental training interventions may modify or offset age-related declines in mental abilities.
Phillip D. Tomporowski
Phillip D. Tomporowski
Physical activity is purported to promote children’s brain health and enhance mental development (1). Three studies were selected for review because of their focus on issues that challenge translational research applications in exercise pediatric science. While some disagreement exists concerning the definition of translational research, most suggest that translational interventions focus on the uptake, implementation, and sustainability of research findings within standard care (2). Translational researchers typically highlight differences that exist between efficacy experiments, which provide evidence that a specific intervention works, and effectiveness experiments, which show that the intervention will reap benefits under real-world conditions. Results obtained from laboratory-based efficacy studies that have examined the relation between exercise and cognition led researchers (3,4) and policy makers to consider the importance of physical activity in school settings. Large-scale studies that assess the impact of various types of school based physical activity intervention on children’s cognitive and academic performance have begun. The initial results have been uneven and suggestive of a lack of benefit for children in authentic school settings. Before drawing such conclusions, however, it will be important for researchers and practitioners to recognize the methodological and measurement issues that challenge attempts to employ laboratory methodologies to academic settings.
Phillip D. Tomporowski
Phillip D. Tomporowski
A review of the literature indicates that acute bouts of physical activity exert short-term positive benefits on the behavior and cognitive functioning of youths without clinical disorders and on youths who have difficulty focusing attention, controlling impulsive actions, or who evidence high levels of motor activity. Prior research conducted has been largely atheoretical. Information-processing models are suggested to provide a framework for assessing the impact of physical activity and cognition and behavior.
Phillip D. Tomporowski and Michel Audiffren
Thirty-one young (mean age = 20.8 years) and 30 older (mean age = 71.5 years) men and women categorized as physically active (n = 30) or inactive (n = 31) performed an executive processing task while standing, treadmill walking at a preferred pace, and treadmill walking at a faster pace. Dual-task interference was predicted to negatively impact older adults’ cognitive flexibility as measured by an auditory switch task more than younger adults; further, participants’ level of physical activity was predicted to mitigate the relation. For older adults, treadmill walking was accompanied by significantly more rapid response times and reductions in local- and mixed-switch costs. A speed-accuracy tradeoff was observed in which response errors increased linearly as walking speed increased, suggesting that locomotion under dual-task conditions degrades the quality of older adults’ cognitive flexibility. Participants’ level of physical activity did not influence cognitive test performance.
Phillip D. Tomporowski and Larry D. Jameson
Institutionalized severely and profoundly mentally retarded adults participated in two exercise programs. One group of 19 subjects performed a circuit-training regimen consisting of treadmill walking, stationary bicycle riding, rowing, and calisthenics. Exercise sessions lasted 60 minutes and were performed every third day during an 18-week training period. A second group of 19 subjects participated in an 18-week jogging regimen which consisted of running distances of 1/2, 1, or 1 1/2 miles each session. The exercise requirements in both programs were increased progressively during the course of training. Subjects adapted quickly to both exercise regimens and almost all improved their physical endurance and ability to exercise. It is suggested that the highly motivating characteristics of exercise may provide educators with a training medium through which new skills can be taught to severely and profoundly mentally retarded adults.
Phillip D. Tomporowski and Norman R. Ellis
The effectiveness of using behavior shaping techniques to prepare nine institutionalized severely and profoundly mentally retarded adults for tests of motor fitness was assessed. Three severely mentally retarded subjects served as the executive subjects in a yoked-control study. Each executive subject was paired randomly with two profoundly mentally retarded subjects. A three-phase multiple baseline experiment was then conducted with executive subjects; yoked subjects received the same intervention as their executive partner. The training program consisted of a verbal instruction baseline phase, a modeling phase, and a graduated guidance phase. Tasks used for training were the shuttle run and standing long jump. Modeling instruction produced minimal improvement in subject performance; however, graduated guidance instruction produced marked, immediate improvement in the performance of six of nine subjects on both tasks. These results suggest that physical prompting techniques will prepare some, but not all, severely and profoundly mentally retarded adults for motor fitness testing.
Phillip D. Tomporowski and Daniel M. Pendleton
The role of acute bouts of exercise on young adults’ psychomotor learning was assessed in two experiments. In Experiment 1, 10 min of exercise performed immediately following pursuit-rotor training improved retention of tracking movements, but only when measured 7 days following encoding and only under exercise conditions that required complex decisions. In Experiment 2, 10 min of exercise performed immediately prior to encoding resulted in a retention pattern similar to that seen in Experiment 1; however, performance did not differ significantly between exercise and control groups. In both experiments, retention of motor movement was greater when measured 24 hr and 7 days after training, as opposed to immediately following encoding. The mnemonic benefits of moderately vigorous complex physical activity appear to assist a motor memory trace to transform from a fragile to a more persistent state.
Bryan A. McCullick, Thomas Baker, Phillip D. Tomporowski, Thomas J. Templin, Karen Lux, and Tiffany Isaac
The purpose of this study was to analyze state school-based physical education (SBPE) policies’ text and the resulting legal implications. A textualist approach to the legal method of Statutory Interpretation framed the data analysis. Findings revealed the difficulty of determining with clarity a majority of PE statutes and it is probable that based on current wording, courts could not play a role in interpreting these statutes, thus leaving interpretation to educational authorities. Significant variability of how authorities interpret statutes increases the challenge of consistent interpretation or adherence to the NASPE Guidelines for Quality Physical Education and whether meaningful policy study can be conducted to determine if SBPE makes an impact.
Catherine L. Davis, Joseph P. Tkacz, Phillip D. Tomporowski, and Eduardo E. Bustamante
This study tested whether participation in organized physical activity (active vs. inactive) or weight status (normal weight vs. overweight or obese) independently relate to children’s cognition, using a matched-pairs design.
Design and Methods:
Normal weight, active children (8–11 yrs, 5th-75th percentile BMI) were recruited from extracurricular physical activity programs while normal weight inactive (5th-75th percentile BMI) and overweight inactive children (BMI ≥85th percentile) were recruited from local Augusta, Georgia area schools. Measures included the Cognitive Assessment System, anthropometrics, and parent- and self-report of physical activity. Paired t tests compared cognition scores between matched groups of normal weight active vs. normal weight inactive (N = 24 pairs), normal weight inactive vs. overweight inactive (N = 21 pairs), and normal weight active vs. overweight inactive children (N = 16 pairs). Children in each comparison were matched for race, gender, age, and socioeconomic status.
Normal weight active children had higher Planning (M± SD = 109 ± 11 vs. 100 ± 11, p = .011) and Attention scores (108 ± 11 vs. 100 ± 11, p = .013) than overweight inactive children. Normal weight inactive children had higher Attention scores than overweight inactive children (105 ± 13 vs. 93 ± 12, p = .008). When compared with normal weight inactive children, normal weight active children had higher Planning (113 ± 10 vs. 102 ± 13, p = .008) and marginally higher Attention scores (111 ± 11 vs. 104 ± 12, p = .06).
Findings suggest independent associations of children’s weight status with selective attention, and physical activity with higher-order processes of executive function.