Researchers at the Technical University of Dortmund in Dortmund, Germany, recently conducted a study to gather data on possible differences in auditory attention control between physically active and inactive older men.

Thirty-two subjects aged 66–87 were divided into two groups matched for sociodemographic and psychological variables. The only distinction between groups was that one had much higher levels of cardiovascular fitness and daily physical activity than the other. All subjects listened to a series of short and long tones intermingled with unrelated sounds and were required to identify the short and long tones.

Data analysis of results showed that physically active subjects were more successful at focusing attention on relevant tones and ignoring irrelevant sounds. Interestingly, stimulus identification was similar between both groups, but men who were less fit were more distracted by the irrelevant sounds. Previous studies have also shown that aerobically trained older adults process conflicting stimuli more efficiently than untrained older adults.

Study authors recommended that more research be done on other modalities, such as vision, to determine whether the relationship between attention control and physical fitness would yield similar findings.

The study appeared in PLoS One (2013; 8 [9], e74539; doi: 10.1371/journal. pone.0074539).

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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