Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Cay Anderson-Hanley




exercise, mental, physical, function, activity


Ongoing advancements in medicine have allowed for an increase in lifespan, but this added longevity can be accompanied by a decline in neuropsychological function. Age-associated memory impairment affects 40% of people 65 and older (Small et al., 2006). This inspires a need for research on preserving brain health, particularly through the application of controllable behaviors, such as exercise (Kramer et al., 2006). Studies on physical exercise demonstrate its benefits on executive function (Colcombe & Kramer, 2003; Hillman et al., 2008). Additionally, research suggests that mental exercise improves neuropsychological functioning (Farris et al., 1994). This study examines the combined effects made possible in exergaming, which provides for the interactive use of video games during exercising. Fifteen older adults were randomly assigned to a single bout of mental, physical, or combined exercise, and pre/post assessments measured differences in executive function. Individuals in the exergaming condition were hypothesized to show more significant improvements in executive function than participants doing either physical or mental activity. Exergamers were expected to exercise harder, since their physical activity is enhanced with the distraction of mental challenges. Heart rate and calories burned were measured to evaluate effort, since increased heart rate/blood flow is known to e linked to increased cerebral function (Hillman, 2008). Alternatively, it is possible that the benefits of an engaging mental component add directly to the cognitive benefits of the physical activity. This study is aimed to explain the independent and combined contributions of physical and mental exercise in exergaming to cognitive outcomes. Results showed trends, but no significant improvements in cognition for the neuropsychological assessments administered: Digit Span Backwards, Stroop C, and Color Trails B. No significant differences were found between mental, physical, or combined exercise groups. However, this study provides theoretical support to current health research regarding exercise and may also inspire the refinement of exercise interventions for delaying cognitive decline in aging.