PURPOSE: Physical activity has been shown to attenuate the association between overweight/obesity and deleterious cardiovascular health-related outcomes, with emerging work also taking the duration of overweight/obesity into consideration. No previous work, however, has explored the interrelationships between physical activity, obesity, and obesity duration in the context of cognitive task performance, which was the purpose of this study.
METHOD: Data from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey were used (N = 2322 adults 60-85 yrs). Physical activity was assessed via self-report, with body mass index (BMI) directly measured. Participants were classified into one of eight mutually exclusive groups: (0) normal weight now and 10 years ago and active now (n = 195), (1) normal weight and 10 years ago and inactive now (n = 265), (2) normal weight now but not 10 years ago and active now (n = 46), (3) normal weight now but not 10 years ago and inactive now (n = 123), (4) overweight/obese now but not 10 years ago and active now (n = 117), (5) overweight/obese now but not 10 years ago and inactive now (n = 168), (6) overweight/obese now and 10 years ago and active now (n = 435), and (7) overweight/obese now and 10 years ago and inactive now (n = 973). The digit symbol substitution test (DSST) was employed to assess cognitive task performance.
RESULTS: After adjustments, only individuals who were inactive (groups 1, 3, 5, and 7) had significantly lower cognitive task performance.
CONCLUSION: Being inactive, regardless of weight classification and duration of overweight/obesity, was inversely associated with cognitive task performance in this national sample of older adults.