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From The CriticsReviewer: David O. Staats, MD (University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center)
Description: This multiauthored book on how exercise mediates cognition in older persons, the second volume in the three volume Aging, Exercise, and Cognition series, is based on a symposium held in Austin, Texas in 2003.
Purpose: The purpose is to review how exercise affects cognition in older persons. The authors and editors meet this goal handsomely.
Audience: The audience here is researchers in brain and aging, exercise physiologists and psychologists working on cognition. The editors believe this book could be used as a text on exercise and cognition.
Features: The first of the book's four parts discusses the models relating exercise to cognition; the second part focuses on exercise and mental functioning; the third discusses exercise's influence on cognition via diet, sleep and aging; and the fourth covers the effects of exercise on chronic diseases and cognition. Each chapter begins with an introduction to the topic and ends with a summary of the discussion that followed in the conference, methodological research problems, and directions for future research. These introductions and summaries are most stimulating.
Assessment: I like this book not only for what it covers, but also for the archetype it represents. The differentiation between mediation and moderation of effects of exercise on cognition is subtle and profound. The laying out of how basic research leads to interventions that lead, in turn, to standards of care is very clearly stated. The archetypal part is the beginning of looking at the indirect manifestations of disease. Exercise helps cognition — why? In part, because it helps the digestion. Exercise helps the bowels open regularly and this makes people bright. Usually one thinks of exercise effects in terms of muscle tone, oxygen consumption, etc., but in older persons, it is this effect of the bowels on cognition that is remarkable (among other things). The proof, of course, is seeing that bed rest of older persons often induces the dreaded fecal impaction, which, in turn, leads to delirium by a variety of mechanisms. Thus, this book is the beginning of the approach to a unified theory of geriatrics and gerontology.