The purpose of this article is to review the potential of Tai Chi Chuan as a mode of physical activity that could have cognitive benefits for older adults and to provide potential directions for future research. A brief introduction to Tai Chi Chuan and its related physical benefits is provided. In addition, the empirical literature related to Tai Chi Chuan and cognition is reviewed. Potential mediators of the relationship between Tai Chi Chuan and cognition, including physical resources, disease status, and mental resources, are discussed. Based on the limitations of the extant literature, it is argued that future research in this area must provide more detailed descriptions of Tai Chi Chuan, particularly in terms of intensity and program progression. Consideration of the specific type of cognition that is expected to benefit is also encouraged, and approaches for further efforts to understand how Tai Chi Chuan affects cognition are recommended.
Yu-Kai Chang, Yu-Hsiang Nien, Chia-Liang Tsai and Jennifer L. Etnier
Trevor A. Pickering, Jimi Huh, Stephen Intille, Yue Liao, Mary Ann Pentz and Genevieve F. Dunton
Decisions to perform moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) involve behavioral cognitive processes that may differ within individuals depending on the situation.
Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) was used to examine the relationships of momentary behavioral cognitions (ie, self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, intentions) with MVPA (measured by accelerometer). A sample of 116 adults (mean age, 40.3 years; 72.4% female) provided real-time EMA responses via mobile phones across 4 days. Multilevel models were used to test whether momentary behavioral cognitions differed across contexts and were associated with subsequent MVPA. Mixed-effects location scale models were used to examine whether subject-level means and within-subjects variances in behavioral cognitions were associated with average daily MVPA.
Momentary behavioral cognitions differed across contexts for self-efficacy (P = .007) but not for outcome expectancy (P = .53) or intentions (P = .16). Momentary self-efficacy, intentions, and their interaction predicted MVPA within the subsequent 2 hours (Ps < .01). Average daily MVPA was positively associated with within-subjects variance in momentary self-efficacy and intentions for physical activity (Ps < .05).
Although momentary behavioral cognitions are related to subsequent MVPA, adults with higher average MVPA have more variation in physical activity self-efficacy and intentions. Performing MVPA may depend more on how much behavioral cognitions vary across the day than whether they are generally high or low.
Jennifer L. Etnier, William B. Karper, Jennifer I. Gapin, Lisa A. Barella, Yu Kai Chang and Karen J. Murphy
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.
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.
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).
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.
Jannique G.Z. van Uffelen, Marijke J.M. Chinapaw, Marijke Hopman-Rock and Willem van Mechelen
This study examined the feasibility and effect on aerobic fitness of a 1-yr, twice-weekly, group-based moderate-intensity walking program (MI-WP, n = 77) compared with a low-intensity activity program (LI-AP, n = 75) for community-dwelling older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Thirty participants did not start a program; median attendance in the other 122 participants was 71%. Small but significant associations were observed between attendance and memory in the MI-WP and general cognition in the LI-AP. Associations were no longer significant when both groups were analyzed together. Intensity, assessed using percentage of heart-rate reserve and the Borg scale, equaled intended intensity for both programs. Aerobic fitness improved significantly in participants in the MI-WP. In conclusion, cognition was not clearly associated with attendance in the 62 participants starting the MI-WP, and average attendance was good. The intensity was feasible for participants who continued the MI-WP. The findings support the proposal that regular moderate-intensity walking improves aerobic fitness in adults with MCI.
Yu-Kai Chang, Chien-Yu Pan, Feng-Tzu Chen, Chia-Liang Tsai and Chi-Chang Huang
Several studies have demonstrated that exercise helps reduce or prevent cognitive deterioration among older adults, and recent studies have further examined the effects of resistance-exercise training on cognition. The purpose of this review was to examine the role of resistance-exercise training on cognition in healthy older adults. Specifically, it describes the definition, health benefits, and the design of resistance-exercise training. The authors also review the research related to resistance exercises and cognition and found that this exercise modality may enhance specific cognitive performances. Next, they examine the potential mechanisms underlying resistance exercise and cognitive enhancement. Finally, they consider potential therapeutics and recommendations for further research on resistance-exercise training and cognition in older adults.
Lambros Lazuras, Vassileios Barkoukis, Angelos Rodafinos and Haralambos Tzorbatzoudis
Doping use is an ongoing problem in contemporary sports. Despite efforts to detect and control doping, research on its etiology is limited, especially among elite-level athletes. The present study used an integrated social cognition model to examine the predictors of doping intentions. Structured anonymous questionnaires were completed by 1075 Greek adult elite-level athletes (M age = 25 years, SD = 5.89, 36.1% females) from both team and individual sports. Multiple regression and mediation analyses showed that attitudes, normative beliefs, situational temptation, and behavioral control significantly predicted doping intentions. A normative process was identified whereby situational temptation mediated the effects of normative beliefs on intentions. The findings provide the basis for future social cognition research in doping use, and set the framework for the development of evidence-based preventive interventions.
Jaclyn P. Maher, Eldin Dzubur, Jimi Huh, Stephen Intille and Genevieve F. Dunton
This study used time-varying effect modeling to examine time-of-day differences in how behavioral cognitions predict subsequent physical activity (PA). Adults (N = 116) participated in three 4-day “bursts” of ecological momentary assessment (EMA). Participants were prompted with eight EMA questionnaires per day assessing behavioral cognitions (i.e., intentions, self-efficacy, outcome expectations) and wore an accelerometer during waking hours. Subsequent PA was operationalized as accelerometer-derived minutes of moderate- or vigorousintensity PA in the 2 hr following the EMA prompt. On weekdays, intentions positively predicted subsequent PA in the morning (9:25 a.m.–11:45 a.m.) and in the evening (8:15 p.m.–10:00 p.m.). Self-efficacy positively predicted subsequent PA on weekday evenings (7:35 p.m.–10:00 p.m.). Outcome expectations were unrelated to subsequent PA on weekdays. On weekend days, behavior cognitions and subsequent PA were unrelated regardless of time of day. This study identifies windows of opportunity and vulnerability for motivation-based PA interventions aiming to deliver intervention content within the context of adults’ daily lives.
Katja Linde and Dorothee Alfermann
Physical and cognitive activity seems to be an effective strategy by which to promote age-sensitive fluid cognitive abilities in older adults.
In this randomized controlled trial, 70 healthy senior citizens (age 60–75) were allocated to a physical, cognitive, combined physical plus cognitive, and waiting control group. The trial assessed information processing speed, short-term memory, spatial relations, concentration, reasoning, and cognitive speed.
In contrast to the control group, the physical, cognitive, and combined training groups enhanced their concentration immediately after intervention. Only the physical training group showed improved concentration 3 months later. The combined training group displayed improved cognitive speed both immediately and three months after intervention. The cognitive training group displayed improved cognitive speed 3 months after intervention.
Physical, cognitive, and combined physical plus cognitive activity can be seen as cognition-enrichment behaviors in healthy older adults that show different rather than equal intervention effects.
Jennifer Gapin and Jennifer L. Etnier
Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) consistently perform worse on executive function (EF) tasks relative to those without AD/HD. Physical activity has a small effect on cognition in children and may be particularly beneficial for children with AD/HD by impacting fundamental EF deficiencies that characterize this disorder. The purpose of this study was to explore the extent to which physical activity is associated with EF in children with AD/HD. Eighteen boys (M age = 10.61, SD = 1.50) with AD/HD were recruited to complete four EF tasks. Physical activity was measured with an accelerometer that provided daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity; this measure was a significant predictor of performance on the Tower of London planning task, adjusted R 2 = .28, F(1, 16) = 7.61, p < .05, and was positively associated with other EF measures. These results suggest that higher physical activity is associated with better EF performance in AD/HD children.
Jennifer L. Etnier and Yu-Kai Chang
The purpose of the present commentary is to introduce relevant issues with respect to the measurement of executive function in physical activity studies. Suggested definitions of executive function are introduced, and executive function tasks that are commonly used in the neuropsychological literature are presented and briefly described. The extant literature on physical activity and cognition is discussed, and issues relative to the limitations of this body of literature are raised. In summary, research on the effect of physical activity on executive function is still in its infancy. We encourage researchers in this field to provide a clear definition of executive function, to carefully consider the relevance of published effect sizes to their own research questions, and to consider either providing a logical rationale for their selection of particular executive function measures or to use multiple measures of executive function when exploring relationships between physical activity and executive function.