BACKGROUND: Regular physical activity (PA) is potentially beneficial for age-related cognitive decline. Although moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) is mostly advised, older adults with chronic illnesses might benefit more from light physical activity (LPA), as they suffer from mobility problems, pain, and fatigue, limiting high-intensity PA. Therefore, the longitudinal association between change in LPA and MVPA and the change in cognitive functioning (CF) is investigated in older adults with chronic illnesses.
METHODS: In total 432 older adults (mean age 73.7 [±6.1] years; 46.8% female) with at least one chronic illness participated in this longitudinal observational study. Longitudinal associations between accelerometer-assessed change in PA (LPA and MVPA) and change in CF, measured with an objective validated neuropsychological test battery, were tested with multivariate linear regressions.
RESULTS: An increase in LPA between baseline and 6 months follow-up was significantly associated with improved short-term verbal memory and inhibition over the first 6 months. In addition, the change score in LPA over the first 6 months was predictive for the change score in short-term verbal memory over 12 months. Furthermore, an increase in MVPA between baseline and 6 months follow-up was significantly associated with a decrease in longer-term verbal memory scores over the same six-month period.
CONCLUSIONS: For older adults with chronic illnesses who may experience difficulties in being sufficiently active, an increase in LPA is probably more achievable than an increase in MVPA. In addition, an increase in LPA enhances CF more than an increase in MVPA does.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: Netherlands Trial Register NL6005 ; Date of Registration 21-03-2017.