Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Exercise Science

First Advisor

Sara Wilcox


Physical activity (PA) is believed to improve cognitive function, particularly executive function, in older adults. However, few interventions in community settings have been performed to improve executive function through PA. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of a community-based walking program on executive function in older adults (60+ years). Older adults from senior centers throughout Lexington County, SC were recruited for participation in this intervention. Exclusion criteria included currently exercising >30 minutes and exercising ≥2x/week or scoring ≤25 on the Mini-Mental State Exam. The intervention consisted of an evidenced-based community walking program, the Arthritis Foundation ’ s “ Walk With Ease”, which met two times a week for 9 weeks. Participants were tested at baseline and follow-up on the following measures: executive function (Stroop Color-Word, Trail Making Test A and B, Semantic Fluency, and Phonetic Fluency), physical performance (Timed Up-and-Go, Gait Speed, Chair Stand), depressive symptoms, disease management self-efficacy, and PA levels. Participants also reported demographics and subjective health status. Paired t-tests and repeated measures ANOVA were conducted for all outcomes of interest, along with effect sizes. Participants (N=56) were predominantly female (80.4%) and overweight (BMI= 29.81 ± 5.92). No significant improvements for any cognitive function measure or physical performance measure were found following the intervention. Repeated measures ANOVA revealed a significant improvement following the intervention for both PA (B=17.79 ± 5.42 MET hours/week, p<0.01) and disease management self-efficacy (B=5.77 ± 2.53, p=0.03). The results of this community-based single group pretest-posttest study does not provide enough evidence that the WWE is associated with improvements in cognitive function or improvements in physical performance. This study indicates that WWE increases PA levels and disease management self-efficacy of older adults. Larger studies of longer duration may be needed to reveal impacts on cognitive function.


© 2014, Ryan S. Falck

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