Both physical and cognitive factors are known to independently predict functional mobility in older people. However, the combined predictive value of both physical fitness and cognitive factors on functional mobility has been less investigated. The aim of the present study was to assess if cognitive executive functions moderate the role of physical fitness in determining functional mobility of older individuals. Fifty-seven 65- to 75-year-old healthy participants performed tests of functional mobility (habitual and maximal walking speed, maximal walking speed while picking up objects/stepping over obstacles), physical fitness (peak power, knee extensors torque, back/lower limb flexibility, aerobic fitness), and executive function (inhibition and cognitive flexibility). Maximal walking speeds were predicted by physical fitness parameters and their interaction with cognitive factors. Knee extensor torque emerged as the main predictor of all tested locomotor performances at maximal speed. The effect of peak power and back/lower limb flexibility was moderated by executive functions. In particular, inhibition and cognitive flexibility differed in the way in which they moderate the role of fitness. High levels of cognitive flexibility seem necessary to take advantage of leg power for walking at maximal speed. In contrast, high levels of inhibitory capacity seem to compensate for low levels of back/lower limb flexibility when picking up movements are added to a locomotor task. These findings may have important practical implications for the design and implementation of multi-component training programs aimed at optimizing functional abilities in older adults.
University College Dublin ->