One single bout of exercise can be associated with positive effects on cognition, due to physiological changes associated with muscular activity, increased arousal, and training of cognitive skills during exercise. While the positive effects of life-long physical activity on cognitive ageing are well demonstrated, it is not well established whether one bout of exercise is sufficient to register such benefits in older adults. The aim of this study was to test the effect of one bout of exercise on two cognitive processes essential to daily life and known to decline with ageing: Audio-visual perception and immediate memory. Fifty-eight older adults took part in a quasi-experimental design study and were divided into three groups based on their habitual activity (open skill exercise (mean age = 69.65, SD = 5.64), closed skill exercise, N = 18, 94% female; sedentary activity-control group, N = 21, 62% female). They were then tested before and after their activity (duration between 60 and 80 minutes). Results showed improvement in sensitivity in audio-visual perception in the open skill group and improvements in one of the measures of immediate memory in both exercise groups, after controlling for baseline differences including global cognition and health. These findings indicate that immediate benefits for cross-modal perception and memory can be obtained after open skill exercise. However, improvements after closed skill exercise may be limited to memory benefits. Perceptual benefits are likely to be associated with arousal, while memory benefits may be due to the training effects provided by task requirements during exercise. The respective role of qualitative and quantitative differences between these activities in terms of immediate cognitive benefits should be further investigated. Importantly, the present results present the first evidence for a modulation of cross-modal perception by exercise, providing a plausible avenue for rehabilitation of cross-modal perception deficits, which are emerging as a significant contributor to functional decline in ageing.
O’Brien, J., Ottoboni, G., Tessari, A., & Setti, A. (2017). One bout of open skill exercise improves cross-modal perception and immediate memory in healthy older adults who habitually exercise. PLoS ONE, 12(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178739