Claudia Voelcker-Rehage, Ben Godde and Ursula M. Staudinger

European Journal of Neuroscience, 201o


The benefits of fitness for cognitive performance in healthy older adults have repeatedly been demonstrated. Animal studies, however, have revealed differential relationships between physical and motor fitness and brain metabolism. We therefore investigated whether for older humans different dimensions of fitness are differentially associated with cognitive performance and brain activation patterns. Seventy-two participants (mean age 68.99 years, SD = 3.66; 52 females) completed four psychometric tests reflecting two primary abilities of higher cognitive functioning (executive control, perceptual speed) and a battery of fitness tests comprising two fitness dimensions (physical and motor fitness). We found that not only physical fitness indexed by cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength, but also motor fitness including movement speed, balance, motor coordination and flexibility showed a strong association with cognitive functioning. Additionally, functional brain imaging data revealed that physical and motor fitness were differentially related to cognitive processes. Results are discussed with regard to the compensation hypothesis and potential consequences for intervention work.