Date of Graduation

12-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Degree Level

Undergraduate

Department

Health, Human Performance and Recreation

Advisor

Michelle Gray

Abstract

Purpose This study aimed to compare the cognitive measures of reaction time and dual-task performance among recreationally active, master athletes, and sedentary older adults aged 50 years or older. Methods 59 late middle-aged and older adults between the ages of 50 to 88 years old participated in reaction time and dual-task tests of which consisted of multiple trials on the same day. Subjects were placed either into the recreationally active, masters athlete, or sedentary activity level group based on the Rapid Assessment of Physical Activity (RAPA) form. For the gait speed with associated dual-task component, subjects walked 10-meters at two different speeds, either at habitual or fast-paced speed, while counting backward aloud by threes. For both the simple and choice reaction time tests, subjects responded by touching the MoART board when they saw a light appear. Both simple and choice reaction time was measured. They completed three sets of ten trials for each test and the average of the 30 trials was recorded. Results One-way ANOVA indicated no statistical differences between activity groups for simple reaction time time (p= .09) and for choice reaction time (p= .14). The scores showed a trend toward clinical relevance between the sedentary and masters athlete groups (p= .41) and between the recreationally active and masters athlete group (p= .08). For the dual-task assessment, one-way ANOVA analysis indicated no statistically significant difference in habitual dual-task decrement speed (p= .10) or fast dual-task decrement speed (p= .10) between activity groups. However, when comparing sedentary individuals to recreationally active, there is less of a difference in habitual dual-task decrement speed (p= .36) than when comparing sedentary individuals to masters athletes (p = .12). When comparing sedentary individuals to recreationally active, there is also less of a difference in fast dual-task decrement speed (p= .28) than when comparing sedentary individuals to masters athletes (p= .13). Conclusion The results of this study indicate that there are no significant differences among the activity groups (masters athletes, recreationally active, sedentary) when comparing cognitive measures (reaction time and dual-task performance). Although there was no statistical significance, the results indicate that there would be more significant trends if there were either a larger population size or a better way of indicating the subject’s current activity level. Knowing that there were trends toward clinical relevance, this study suggests that exercise has a positive influence on cognitive measures such as reaction time and dual-task performance. Throughout the aging process, cognitive ability declines and thus is detrimental among the elderly as it results in a greater risk for falls. Measures to prolong this decline, such as implementing an exercise program, are vital in order to improve quality of life and encourage a life of independence among the elderly.

Keywords

dual-task, reaction time, masters athletes, sedentary, recreationally active, cognitive measures, exercise effects on cognition