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  • Author: Waneen W. Spirduso x
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Waneen W. Spirduso

Maintaining health and postponing chronic disease are assuming a higher priority in our aging society. It is therefore more critical than ever to understand the specific contribution that exercise makes toward the achievement of independent and healthy living for as many individuals as possible. Scientists have already shown that exercise plays an important role in maintaining cardiovascular health, muscular strength and endurance, balance, flexibility, and neuromuscular coordination. What remains for researchers of the future is to clarify the relationships among fitness, cognition, emotional health, and well-being in the elderly. More important, the greatest challenge for future researchers is to determine how an adult population that recognizes the benefits of exercise but continues to be sedentary can be transformed into a population that incorporates an adequate level of physical activity into its lifestyle.

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Kathye E. Light and Waneen W. Spirduso

Unlike stimulus–response compatibility, which has been explored for aging effects, the motor behavior issue of response–response (R–R) compatibility has not been addressed in the gerontological literature. R–R compatibility refers to the ease with which two responses can be prepared together either simultaneously or as choice alternatives. In the present study, young, middle-aged, and elderly adult female subjects were tested in a two-choice reaction-time (RT) paradigm involving four types of finger movements paired in every possible choice combination, creating different levels of R–R compatibility. Significant age differences increased as R–R compatibility decreased. The practical significance of this study is to establish R–R compatibility as an important factor influencing task difficulty to which older adults are particularly sensitive and to encourage recognition of this factor when prescribing progressive motor-skill training in elderly clients.

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Waneen W. Spirduso, Britta G. Schoenfelder-Zohdi, Jonghwan Choi and Susan M. Jay

This study investigated age-related differences in tapping speed with respect to warm-up and fatigue effects and also with respect to task complexity. An additional purpose was to determine the site of age-related slowing in stationary tapping. Adult females from three different age groups were asked to tap as fast as possible for 25 s with a specified digit combination by depressing microswitches on one or two metal boxes that were mounted on a data acquisition board. All groups showed a warm-up period during the first block, reached their peak tapping speed during the second block, and then gradually fatigued, as indicated by a decreasing number of taps. These findings suggest that to assess true tapping speed, a trial should not last more than 15 s, or the results may be confounded by fatigue effects. It was found that tapping with the thumb and index finger simultaneously is more difficult than tapping with one or both index fingers, regardless of age.

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Kathye E. Light, Marie A. Reilly, Andrea L. Behrman and Waneen W. Spirduso

The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of practice on simple reaction time (RT), movement time (MT), and response consistency for two arm-reaching tasks of graded complexity in younger and older adults. Forty subjects, 20 younger adults (age range = 20–29 years) and 20 older adults (age range = 60–82 years), were randomly subdivided into practice and control groups. All subjects were pretested on each arm-reaching movement on Day 1. The practice groups practiced each task for 160 trials over 2 consecutive days while the control groups practiced a memory task and answered a health survey. All subjects were posttested on Day 3. The major finding was that practice reduced the simple RTs of older persons to the level of younger persons. MTs for both practice age groups were reduced, but the age differences in MT performance were maintained.