Researchers recently conducted a study that was published in PLOS One to explore the links between cognitive performance, physical fitness, and autonomic nervous system function. Researchers gathered data on possible differences in auditory attention control between physically active and inactive older men.
Thirty-two subjects aged 66-87 were divided into two groups matched for sociodemographic and psychological variables. The only distinction between groups was that one had much higher levels of cardiovascular fitness and daily physical activity than the other. All subjects listened to a series of short and long tones intermingled with unrelated sounds and were required to identify the short and long tones.
Data analysis of results showed that physically active subjects were more successful at focusing attention on relevant tones and ignoring irrelevant sounds. Interestingly, stimulus identification was similar between both groups, but men who were less fit were more distracted by the irrelevant sounds. Previous studies have also shown that aerobically trained older adults process conflicting stimuli more efficiently than untrained older adults.
Study authors recommended that more research be done on other modalities, such as vision, to determine whether the relationship between attention control and physical fitness would yield similar findings.
Previous studies have shown that fit people do better on cognitive tasks, and have better autonomic nervous system function. This study suggests that it’s the nervous system’s improvements that partly explain the improved cognitive performance.
Resource: IDEA Fitness Journal