Physical activity and executive functioning in college students

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ABSTRACT PHYSCIAL ACTIVITY AND EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING IN COLLEGE STUDENTS INTRODUCTION: Regular physical activity may increase neurological development, which has been shown to increase cognitive functioning in older adults and those

ABSTRACT PHYSCIAL ACTIVITY AND EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING IN COLLEGE STUDENTS INTRODUCTION: Regular physical activity may increase neurological development, which has been shown to increase cognitive functioning in older adults and those with dementia. Studies have also shown physical activity and exercise may positively affect executive functioning in children. Little is known about the influence of physical activity on executive functioning in college students between the ages of 18-21 years, a population that is traditionally thought of as healthy. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to explore the association between physical activity and executive functioning in college-aged students. We hypothesize that regular physical activity is positively associated with executive functioning scores and that this association is independent of adiposity. METHODS: Twenty males and 29 females (19.5 ± 0.1 yrs. old) participated in this study. Physical activity was assessed using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ). Executive function was assessed by Stroop Color and Word Association Test (Stroop) and Trail Making Test A & B. A verbal ability test (analogies, synonyms, antonyms) was given in order to control for intelligence. Body composition was determined by a Tanita TBF-300 Body Composition Analyzer. RESULTS: Partial correlations between physical activity/inactivity measures and measures of executive functioning were generally small (r-values ≤ 0.2) and not significant. However, there was a significant inverse correlation between log moderate physical activity minutes per week and Stroop interference scores (r=0.50, p=0.01). Also, a trend towards significance was noted for the correlation between sitting minutes per week and Stroop interference scores (r=0.4 p=0.08) CONCLUSION: These results suggest that in college students, moderate physical activity is inversely associated with executive functioning while sitting time may be positively associated with executive functioning. These findings are in contrast to previous studies in children and older adults, and may indicate a unique relationship between physical activity/inactivity and executive functioning in college students. Future studies to further examine this population in greater depth are warranted.