School of Medicine Publications and Presentations

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Background: Physical activity (PA) has emerged as a promising approach to delay Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, but the optimal intensity of PA to improve cognitive health remains unknown.

Objective: To evaluate the association between duration and intensity of PA and cognitive domains (executive function, processing speed, and memory) in aging Americans.

Methods: Linear regressions in hierarchical blocks for variable adjustment and the size of effect (η2) were analyzed by using the data of 2,377 adults (age = 69.3±6.7 years) from the NHANES 2011–2014.

Results: Participants with 3–6 h/week of vigorous- and > 1 h/week of moderate-intensity PA scored significantly higher in executive function and processing speed domains of cognition compared to inactive peers (η2 = 0.005 & 0.007 respectively, p < 0.05). After adjustment, the beneficial effects of 1–3 h /week of vigorous-intensity PA became trivial for delayed recall memory domain test scores (η2 = 0.33; 95%CI: –0.01,0.67; η2 = 0.002; p = 0.56). There was no linear dose-response relationship between the cognitive test scores and weekly moderate-intensity of PA. Interestingly, higher handgrip strength and higher late-life body mass index were associated with a higher performance across all cognitive domains.

Conclusion: Our study supports habitual PA with superior cognition health in some but not all domains among older adults. Furthermore, increased muscle strength and higher late-life adiposity may also impact cognition.


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Publication Title

Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease



Academic Level


Mentor/PI Department

Office of Human Genetics



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