Physical Activity Is Associated With Reduced Risk of Executive Function Impairment in Older Women

J Aging Health. 2016 Jun;28(4):726-39. doi: 10.1177/0898264315609908. Epub 2015 Oct 12.


Objective: To examine whether baseline levels of physical activity, measured by total caloric expenditure, predicted domain-specific cognitive impairments over a 9-year period.

Method: Participants included 376 community-dwelling older women aged 70 to 80 years at baseline from the Women's Health and Aging Study II. Cox proportional hazard models were used to evaluate the associations between self-reported physical activity and risk of cognitive impairments in psychomotor speed, executive function, and verbal memory. Models were adjusted for age, race, education, number of chronic illnesses, and number of depressive symptoms at baseline.

Results: Greater baseline levels of caloric expenditure were associated with better executive function in the most active quintile of adults compared with the least active quintile. Caloric expenditure was not associated with improved scores for any of the other domains assessed.

Discussion: The results of this study suggest that higher levels of physical activity modified risk of incident impairment in executive function.

Keywords: caloric expenditure; cognitive impairment; executive function; memory; older women; physical activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk