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Physical activity and executive function in midlife

Peven, Jamie (2021) Physical activity and executive function in midlife. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Greater participation in physical activity (PA) is associated with better executive functioning (EF) and lower rates of cognitive impairment. Midlife may be a critical period when the risk for cognitive decline begins to be conferred, making health behaviors particularly important. It is likely that multiple parameters of PA (e.g., intensity, volume, pattern of activity) work in concert to improve cognitive functioning. However, few studies have evaluated these PA parameters as one PA index or parsed them into distinct features. Prior evidence suggests that age and/or sex may moderate PA-EF relationships, though these studies have almost exclusively investigated effects in older adults or children. The aims of the current study were to investigate whether PA modulated EF during midlife and to test the moderating effects of age and sex. Exploratory factor analyses derived two factors (moderate-to-vigorous PA (MVPA) and total PA) from objectively monitored PA in 456 healthy midlife adults (mean age=43 years). Additional factor analyses derived an underlying EF factor and EF subdomain components (i.e., working memory, inhibitory control, abstraction, processing speed). Regression models controlling for relevant demographic and health characteristics explored the relationships between PA engagement and EF. Secondary analyses tested whether these relationships differed between using a PA factor or individual PA parameters as predictors of EF. Neither PA factor nor their interactions with age or sex were associated with the exploratory EF factor. Analyses focusing on the EF subdomains revealed that higher MVPA factor scores were associated with poorer inhibitory control. Separating the PA factors into individual parameters demonstrated that longer time spent in MVPA bouts and lower active energy expenditure were associated with better abstraction. There were no significant associations or interactions with age or sex on working memory or processing speed. Total PA was not related to EF or any EF subdomain. Taken together, achieving moderate intensity PA may uniquely contribute to EF during midlife. However, overall factor scores of PA and EF were not related in this sample. The unexpected negative and nonsignificant associations may be explained by a truncated range of PA or by unexplored physiological mechanisms that might mediate the PA-EF relationship.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Peven, Jamiejac349@pitt.edujac349
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairErickson, Kirkkiericks@pitt.edukiericks
Committee MemberGianaros, Petergianaros@pitt.edugianaros
Committee MemberManuck, Stephenmanuck@pitt.edumanuck
Committee MemberMarsland, Annamarsland@pitt.edumarsland
Committee MemberRodakowski, Juleenjur17@pitt.edujur17
Date: 8 October 2021
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 17 July 2020
Approval Date: 8 October 2021
Submission Date: 3 November 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 177
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: physical activity, executive function, midlife
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2021 17:55
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2021 17:55


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