Importance of Personal Wellness: How Exercise and Leisure Activities Relate to Memory
Mentor:Steve Rogers, Associate Professor of Psychology, Westmont College
Studies have shown that pursuits toward personal wellness in later life may impact memory functioning, but much of this research has focused on exercise to the exclusion of leisure activities. In the present study, the authors examined the way participation in exercise and leisure activities is related to older adults’ memory.
Fifty-four older adults (44 women, M age = 76.65, M education = 15.61) indicated their weekly participation in exercise and leisure. They also completed the WMS-III, CVLT-II, and Rey-O 3’ & 30’ delays.
On average, participants engaged in exercise 4.49 times and leisure activities 5.39 times per week. Amount of weekly exercise was significantly positively associated with CVLT-II Long Delay Free Recall, p < .04, and Rey-O 30’ delay, p <.03. The number of leisure activities was positively correlated with WMS-III Visual Reproduction I, p <.01, and II, p <.04. Moreover, the combined amount of exercise and leisure was significantly positively associated with scores on WMS-III Logical Memory II, p < .02, CVLT Total Trials 1 -5, p < .01, CVLT-II Long Delay Free Recall, p < .01, Rey-O 3’ delay, p < .03, Rey-0 30’ delay, p < .01, and WMS-III Visual Reproduction I, p < .02, and II, p < .03.
Results show a significant relationship between personal wellness and memory in later life. Among older adults, exercise seems to affect those bilateral neurological areas and mechanisms responsible for delayed recall, such as hippocampal regions. Leisure activities seem to benefit nonverbal rather than verbal learning and memory, suggesting a differential impact on the right relative to left hemisphere, as well as both prefrontal and temporal regions. These findings provide support for the customization of personal wellness programs toward individual memory difficulties and syndromes with particular memory profiles.