Cognitive function of older adults engaging in physical activity

Monisha Ingold, Nikki Tulliani, Chetwyn C.H. Chan, Karen P.Y. Liu (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Physical activity can be classified as open-skilled or closed-skilled. Open-skilled physical activity, such as tennis, require participants to perform within a dynamic setting and respond to unpredictable and frequent environmental changes throughout the activity. Closed-skilled types of physical activity, such as swimming, are predictable and self-directed. However, the benefits of cognitive function in these two types of physical activities to older adults are unknown. This study examined the effects of participation in open- and closed-skilled physical activity on the cognitive function of older adults. Methods: The study recruited a total of 61 participants aged 65 years and over. Participant recruitment was achieved by distributing flyers asking for volunteers in various sports venues. Participants self-reported to be without medical conditions affecting their physical and cognitive function. All participants underwent a two-hour assessment session involving the completion of seven standardised cognitive function assessments, which were used to assess a range of cognitive function. Results: Overall mean scores across all of the assessments showed superior performance for the open- or closed-skilled participants when compared with the no-physical-activity group. The results of 61 adults who participated in this study showed that closed-skilled physical activity was associated with better selective attention and visuospatial function while open-skilled physical activity was associated with better inhibition and cognitive flexibility function. No significant difference in self-regulation ability was found between the open- or closed-skilled groups. Conclusions: Open-skilled physical activity was associated with better inhibition, visual tracking, and cognitive flexibility while closed-skilled physical activity was associated with better selective attention and visuospatial perception. The findings have important practical implications for the health and quality of life of ageing populations, knowing which particular types of physical activity might affect the cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish
Article number229
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2020


  • Cognitive function
  • Older adults
  • Physical activity
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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