Background: Previous studies have found positive associations between cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and cognitive performance in older people but data are inconsistent and have methodological limitations.
Objective: Our aim was to study the longitudinal associations of CRF with executive functions, processing speed and memory as well as with the overall cognitive function in older people at risk for cognitive impairment.
Methods: Participants (n = 421), mean age 69.0, were a sub-sample of The Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER). To be eligible, individuals were required to be 60-77 years old with a CAIDE (Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia) Dementia Risk Score of at least 6 points and cognition at mean level or slightly lower than expected for age. CRF was assessed as peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak, L/min) measured directly in a symptom-limited maximal exercise test on cycle ergometer at baseline and at 24 months. Cognitive performance was assessed using an extensive neuropsychological test battery (NTB) at baseline and at 24 months. NTB data were standardized to Z scores, and analyzed with the linear mixed model.
Results: Over two years, VO2peak was associated with NTB total score (β= 0.12, p = 0.01), executive functions (β= 0.16, p = 0.01), and processing speed (β= 0.25, p < 0.001), but not with memory (β= 0.11, p = 0.12).
Conclusion: Over two years follow-up, CRF was associated with executive functions and processing speed, and was related also to the overall cognitive function.
Keywords: Aged; cardiorespiratory fitness; cognition; executive function; memory.