Cognitive Performance in Low-Income African American Older Adults

Student Classification


Faculty Mentor

Adrienne Aiken-Morgan, Ph.D.


Department of Psychology

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2019




Associations between physical activity and previous research suggests physical activity (PA), especially aerobic PA, is related to better cognition; however, few studies have focused on lower income African American (AA) seniors, who may have barriers to PA engagement. The purpose of this study was to examine associations between cognitive performance and PA in a pilot sample of sedentary, AA adults living in senior housing communities in Durham, NC and Annapolis, MD (N = 50; mean age = 64.5 (SD= 10.42); 72% women). We hypothesized that aerobic PA would show a stronger relationship to cognitive performance. Participants were administered 8 tests assessing global cognitive status, attention/working memory, verbal memory, verbal fluency, and processing speed. The Community Healthy Activities Model Program for Seniors (CHAMPS), a self-report questionnaire measuring weekly frequency and duration of different PAs, was also given. Bivariate correlations showed significant associations between various types of PA and cognitive measures (p < .05). Next, linear regressions demonstrated PA significantly predicted cognitive performance: strength training was positively associated with global cognitive status and attention/working memory, while participating in yoga or tai chi was positively related to attention/working memory and verbal memory (p < .05). Lastly, stretching was positively associated with verbal memory (p < .05). These findings reject our hypothesis regarding aerobic PA. Only non-aerobic PA was related to cognition for this pilot sample. We conclude from this study that AAs seniors should participate in PA, regardless of type. Future research should investigate these relationships in larger samples and explore exercise interventions in underserved, senior AA communities.

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