Purpose: Cognitive impairment is correlated with physical function. However, the results in the literature are inconsistent with cognitive and physical performance measures. Thus, the aim of this study was to determine the association between cognitive performance and physical function among older adults.
Methods: A total of 164 older adults aged 60 years and residing in low-cost housing areas in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia participated in this study. Cognitive performance was measured using the Mini Mental State Examination, clock drawing test, Rey auditory verbal learning test, digit symbol test, digit span test, matrix reasoning test, and block design test. Physical performance measures were assessed using the ten step test for agility, short physical performance battery test for an overall physical function, static balance test using a Pro.Balance board, and dynamic balance using the functional reach test.
Results: There was a negative and significant correlation between agility and the digit symbol test (r=−0.355), clock drawing test (r=−0.441), matrix reasoning test (r=−0.315), and block design test (r=−0.045). A significant positive correlation was found between dynamic balance, digit symbol test (r=0.301), and matrix reasoning test (r=0.251). The agility test appeared as a significant (R2=0.183, R2=0.407, R2=0.299, P0.05) predictor of some cognitive performance measures, including the digit span test, clock drawing test, and Mini Mental State Examination.
Conclusion: These results suggest that a decline in most cognitive performance measures can be predicted by poor execution of a more demanding physical performance measure such as the ten step test for agility. It is imperative to use a more complex and cognitively demanding physical performance measure to identify the presence of an overall cognitive impairment among community-dwelling older adults. It may also be beneficial to promote more complex and cognitively challenging exercises and activities among older adults for optimal physical and cognitive function.