Frame Magazine


The primary concern with motor performance affecting movement abilities of older individuals. There have been numerous studies conducted on the slowing motor functions as we age and it’s often been assumed it’s because of the decreasing general motor control we have as we age. A study conducted by Vercyuyssen, Reynolds, Hancock, and Quilter in 1994 studied the variations in simple and choice reaction time in individuals from age 20 to age 90. The results of this study suggest a marginal slowing in simple reaction time with age, but a dramatic slowing in choice reaction time. According to the early thinking about speed deficits as we age, the slowing reflects the slowing in neurological activities in the central nervous system – not only those involved in nerve conduction times but also those involved in decision making and other aspects of information processing. Later studies suggest that the slowing may also be related to the fact that older people appear to be more “cautious” than younger people. Being unwilling to sacrifice accuracy for speed with the intent to be correct on a task give the appearance of being slower. Research on this topic yields the very optimistic findings that perceptual and cognitive training can go a long way to offset the declines in the more physical accompaniments of aging. In an article by Kramer, Erickson and Colcombe, numerous studies were referenced all pointing to the same concept – exercise helps prevent, or delay the decline of cognitive function as we age. Many of the studies conducted were based on self-reporting of the amount of exercise. These included studies of 1,740 subjects over age 65 which showed the onset of Alzheimer’s disease was significantly higher among those who exercise less than three times per week. Another study lasted more than five years and studied 3.375 subjects. This study showed an inverse relationship between energy expenditure and Alzheimer’s disease. One very interesting aspect of a survey of 35 years of literature by Colcombe and Kramer was that the studies including more women showed larger fitness training benefits than those with fewer women. Another study in the article indicated that increased cerebral blood flow was a result of exercise and this supports better cognitive performance than the studied retirees that didn’t exercise regularly. Another aspect of the biological support is the additional gray matter of the frontal and superior temporal lobe of the brain in those with higher fitness levels which supports cognitive function, also. (By Morgan Sullivan)