Acute Effect of a Simultaneous Exercise and Cognitive Task on Executive Functions and Prefrontal Cortex Oxygenation in Healthy Older Adults


The rapid increase in population aging and associated age-related cognitive decline requires identifying innovative and effective methods to prevent it. To manage this socio-economic challenge, physical, cognitive, and combined stimulations are proposed. The superiority of simultaneous training compared to passive control and physical training alone seems to be an efficient method, but very few studies assess the acute effect on executive function. This study aimed to investigate the acute effect of simultaneous physical and cognitive exercise on executive functions in healthy older adults, in comparison with either training alone. Seventeen healthy older adults performed three experimental conditions in randomized order: physical exercise, cognitive exercise, and simultaneous physical and cognitive exercise. The protocol involved a 30 min exercise duration at 60% of theoretical maximal heart rate or 30 min of cognitive exercise or both. Executive functions measured by the Stroop task and pre-frontal cortex oxygenation were assessed before and after the intervention. We found a main effect of time on executive function and all experimental condition seems to improve inhibition and flexibility scores (textless0.05). We also found a decrease in cerebral oxygenation (Δ[HbO2]) in both hemispheres after each intervention in all cognitive performance assessed (p textless 0.05). Simultaneous physical and cognitive exercise is as effective a method as either physical or cognitive exercise alone for improving executive function. The results of this study may have important clinical repercussions by allowing to optimize the interventions designed to maintain the cognitive health of older adults since simultaneous provide a time-efficient strategy to improve cognitive performance in older adults.

Brain Sciences