Date of Award

1-1-2012

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Department

Exercise Science

First Advisor

Roger Newman-Norlund

Abstract

Physical dependency and cognitive impairment are both found to increase with advanced adult aging and a positive association has been established between cognition and physical functioning. This investigation sought to determine this association specific to walking speed. Objectives were to determine the association between cognitive-executive function and each of three types of walking speeds in community-dwelling older adults. Types of walking speeds included comfortable, fast, and the difference between the change in comfortable to fast walking speed (Ä FWS-CWS). This exploratory investigation was carried out using cross-sectional measures on 129 community-dwelling older adults aged 66 to 92 years. All participants had been treatment-receiving patients at an outpatient physical therapy clinic. Measurements include the assessment of physical functioning using comfortable and fast self-selected walking speeds. Cognitive-executive functioning was measured using total time-to-complete the Trail Making Task.

Executive function (TMT-B) results of the group ranged from 532.7 to 71 sec (mean 180.4, SD 95.4). Physical function ranged from 0.26 to 1.18 m/sec (mean 0.68, SD 0.23) for comfortable walking speed (CWS), 0.40 to 2.13 m/sec (mean 0.98, SD 0.32) for fast walking speed (FWS), and 0.08 to 1.12 m/sec (mean 0.31, SD 0.19) for Ä FWS-CWS. Spearman correlation coefficients were calculated (r = - 0.21, p = 0.12 for CWS and TMT-B; r = - 0.10, p = 0.45 for Ä FWS-CWS and TMT-B). Results lead to the conclusion that the association between Ä FWS-CWS and TMT-B performance appears to be a weak one. Future studies should consider investigating a more physically and cognitively homogenous sample. Although not found to be significant, this study revealed a weak-to-moderate association between comfortable walking speed and the TMT-B. Results provide useful preliminary evidence of an association between walking speed and cognitive-executive function in community-dwelling older adults.

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