Associations of pickleball-playing with cognition among older adults: A six and 18-month longitudinal study

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Hutton, Abbie
Sogaard, Inga
Ringer, Ryan
Ni, Rui
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Hutton, A., Sogaard, I., Ringer, R. 2020. Associations of pickleball-playing with cognition among older adults: A six and 18-month longitudinal study -- In Proceedings: 16th Annual Symposium on Graduate Research and Scholarly Projects. Wichita, KS: Wichita State University, p.39

INTRODUCTION: Inevitably, physical and cognitive abilities decline with age. The population of those over the age of 65 is currently doubling, so care of this population needs to increase (Passel & Cohn, 2008). Cognitive functioning is crucial when carrying out basic tasks; older adults will make up about 25% of driver fatalities by 2030 (Dawson et al., 2010). Cognitive decline affects everyday life and if not maintained can impose a higher risk of vehicle accidents and falls. PURPOSE: Contrary to previous literature on traditional aerobic exercises, open skill exercise (e.g. racquet sports), involving complex movements and an unpredictable environment, have be shown to improve decision making, reaction time, and visual capabilities (Guo et al., 2016; Marks, 2006; Jafarzadehpur et al., 2012). Pickleball, for example, is one of the most rapidly growing sports in the U.S. and is recommended for older adults because of the smaller court size, social interaction, and is easy to learn, yet is moderate in intensity (Ryu et al., 2018). Previous research on pickleball has documented an increase in physical well-being and improved life satisfaction, but lacks how it affects cognition. We hypothesized that older adults who participate in regular pickleball-playing will show improvement in their cognition through perceptual learning after 18 months. METHODS: A non-experimental, longitudinal study was used to compare 83 healthy older adults between the ages of 55 and 85. The participants were assigned to one of four groups based on their exercise characteristics (advanced pickleball = 1 , novice pickleball = 2, aerobic exercise = 3, and inactive = 4). A battery of four baseline and four cognitive assessments (Multiple object tracking (MOT), Useful Field of View (UFOV), Flanker, and N-back) were given to all groups at the pre-test, six-month, and 18-month sessions (pushed back due to COVID-19). RESULTS: A linear mixed modeling approach was used to analyze the repeated measurements to examine the relationship between exercise group and processing speed (UFOV), reaction time (Flanker), and level reached (N-back). There was a significant main effect of group and age for UFOV, session for Flanker, and group for N-back. Group 4 was significantly less accurate on the N-back, had near significant longer processing speed on the UFOV, and increased reaction time on Flanker. A cumulative link mixed model was used to examine the relationship between group and accuracy on the MOT. Group 3 was significantly more accurate and group 4 was near significantly less accurate. CONCLUSION: Cognitive aging is unavoidable, but there are ways to maintain the quality of life. Pickleball is an attractive option for older adults to participate in that can improve self-esteem and life satisfaction. Open skilled exercise can potentially maintain, improve, and/or slow down cognitive decline among older adults more than traditional aerobic exercise. As the population of older adults grows, maximizing their quality of life in every aspect is important and a game of pickleball could be part of that solution.

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Presented to the 16th Annual Symposium on Graduate Research and Scholarly Projects (GRASP) held online, Wichita State University, May 1, 2020.
Research completed in the Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Wichita State University
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v. 16
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