The Influence of physical activity on driving performance and cognitive functioning in older adults : a randomized controlled trial
Chattha, Harpreet Kaur
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As individuals age, two central concerns involve driving safely and preserving cognitive faculties. While some research examining fitness effects on elderly cognition has been conducted, little has been done to investigate whether driving performance or driving relevant cognitive abilities might be affected by increased physical activity particularly in sedentary older adults. The present study examined the effects of a 12-week combined aerobic and anaerobic fitness intervention on a sample of older adults with a sedentary lifestyle. Twenty-nine older adults (55 years of age or older, M = 62.93 years) were assigned to either an experimental (n = 16) or wait-list control group (n = 13). Cognitive, driving performance and physical functioning data were collected on all participants at baseline and after the 12-week interval. These measures were selected based on empirical relevance, however some supplementary analyses were more exploratory in nature given the paucity of literature in the area. A significant intervention effect was found for general visual attention and also for selective attention when individual visual attention domains were assessed. A statistically non-significant effect was found for set-shifting/ interference (i.e., Stroop Colour Word Test), however examination of effect size demonstrated that about 9% of group variance was explained by this variable. While expected, significant effects for physical and driving performance were not found. Given the preliminary nature of this research and limitations, more investigation is needed to provide more conclusive inferences. Future research directions are discussed.