The relationship of age and cardiovascular fitness to cognitive and motor processes

Psychophysiology. 2002 May;39(3):303-12. doi: 10.1017/s0048577201393058.


Older and younger aerobically trained and sedentary adults participated in an S1-S2-S3 paradigm designed to elicit event-related potential (ERP) and behavioral responses to determine the influence of cardiovascular fitness on cognitive and motor processes. The paradigm provided warning (S1) as to the difficulty level of an upcoming decision task (S2). Participants had to decide the taller of two bars on presentation of S2 but hold their response until S3, to which they indicated their choice motorically. Results revealed age-related differences for ERP measures as older participants showed increased amplitude of the stimulus preceding negativity (SPN) prior to S2, and longer latencies and equipotentiality of P3 in response to S2. Fitness effects were also observed for the contingent negative variation (CNV) with decreased amplitude for fit relative to sedentary individuals. Age interacted with fitness for P3 latency to S2 as older sedentary individuals showed the longest latency followed by older fit and both younger groups. No significant group differences were observed for reaction time (RT) to S3. Therefore, physical fitness is associated with attenuation of cognitive decline in older individuals and greater economy of motor preparation for both young and older participants.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Contingent Negative Variation
  • Decision Making / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reaction Time / physiology