Home > Aging, Attention, Memory > Getting Old Doesn’t Need to be Scary!

Getting Old Doesn’t Need to be Scary!

Do you worry about what will happen to your body as you get older? Do you envision your brain slowing down and your grandkids speaking realllyy slllowwlyyy so you can understand them?

Cognitive functioning—which includes attention (allotting mental resources to notice something), memory (the process of encoding, storing, and retrieving information), and executive functioning (a broad term for the system that regulates many cognitive processes)—tends to decrease with age. However, one of the many benefits of exercise is that it has been shown to improve cognitive functioning. And for many older adults, general fitness as it relates to health is a primary concern. But some forms of exercise can be harmful or painful for older adults who have joint pain. So what kind of exercise and how much exercise should older adults get in order to stay physically and mentally healthy?

Water-based exercise, such as water aerobics, is particularly beneficial for older adults because it minimizes the forceful contact with a hard surface, lessening the pressure on joints. A recent study done by Fedor, Garcia, & Gunstad (2015) showed that just one week of water-based exercise can help improve general fitness level. They found that after just six classes of moderately intense water aerobics, older adults showed a 12.3% increase in cardiovascular fitness. The control group, which did not do the experimental workouts in the pool and continued their regular daily activities, did not show improvements in cardiovascular fitness. This means that there are ways to remain fit that are appropriate and beneficial for older bodies and joints.

It would be nice if our bodies and our brains would not decline as they aged, but unfortunately they do. Have you ever watched an older relative walk into a room and then forget what they were coming in to get? This experience is an example of cognitive functions failing and being unable to hold onto the relevant information. The study by Fedor et al. (2015) found that water-based exercise improved cardiovascular fitness as well as cognitive functioning. Executive functioning improved after one week of water-based exercise. The older adults in the control group did not show any improvement in executive functioning.

The exercise group also showed improved attention scores while the control group did not improve. Like executive functioning, attention is relevant to almost every cognitive task. Improvement could mean better functioning by those adults in their daily lives, such as participating in a conversation or reading a book.

The third cognitive process tested was memory. Memory is a process that generally declines with age. This is evident during the “senior moment” when an older adult forgets something they know well, such as a name of a close friend or an important date. The study’s participants were asked to complete multiple memory tasks, including tasks of immediate recall (no time between learning and testing), delayed recall (time between learning and testing), and a recognition test, testing memory for both words and a geometric figure. Fedor et al. (2015) found that the test group showed a significant increase in performance scores after the water aerobics, while the control did not. This is important, as older adults with good memories are considered more intelligent and respected than older adults who have trouble remembering things.

Overall, this study shows older adults should be strongly encouraged to participate in water-based exercise in order to improve their physical fitness, executive functioning, attention, and memory. Improved cognition is a highly desirable result because of how it can impact even daily life. Everyday tasks, such as watching a news report or grocery shopping, can be completed better and more efficiently because of improved attention and memory components. Improved cardiovascular fitness is relevant for older adults who worry frequently about their health. Heart problems especially are worrisome for older adults, so improved cardiovascular fitness due to water aerobics can help lessen some of the anxiety that an aging body can generate. Our society also greatly values intelligence and many take cognitive processing abilities as a sign of intelligence. Showing improved cognition can lead to others having a more positive perception of you and you can garner respect for having good cognitive processing at an age when many people’s cognition is declining. So instead of worrying about how others will pity you because your mind is slowing down and your body’s health is declining, show that age will not get the best of you and do some water-based exercise (even if you only do it for a short period of time)!


To read the original article, click HERE.

To read a Cognitive Blog about aging, cognitive functioning, and hobbies, click HERE.For a blog discussing aging and memory, click HERE. For a blog on aging and attention, click HERE.

For blogs about exercise aiding memory, click HERE, HERE, and HERE.

For more information about steps you can take to stay healthy as you age, click HERE and HERE.



Fedor, A., Garcia, S., & Gunstad, J. (2015). The effects of a brief, water-based exercise intervention on cognitive function in older adults. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 30(2), 139-147. doi:10.1093/arclin/acv001

Picture 1: Retrieved from http://clipartzebraz.com/cliparts/old-clipart/cliparti1_old-clipart_12.jpg.

Picture 2: Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search?q=cognitive+function&biw=1265&bih=701&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjEp8DdxMrJAhVFdD4KHZNkCa8Q_AUIBygC#tbm= isch&q=water+aerobics&imgrc=p0oJshCs05dswM%3A

Picture 3: Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search?q=cognitive+function&biw=1265&bih=701&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjEp8DdxMrJAhVFdD4KHZNkCa8Q_AUIBygC#imgrc=-rdvlgAVjhIaJM%3A

Picture 4: Retrieved from https://www.google.com/search?q=cognitive+function&biw=1265&bih=701&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjEp8DdxMrJAhVFdD4KHZNkCa8Q_AUIBygC# tbm=isch&q=healthy+old+people+cartoon&imgrc=SSOpKzE3QBGQLM%3A


  1. No comments yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.