Aerobic exercise increases cortisol awakening response in older adults.


University of Calgary, Department of Physiology & Pharmacology, Canada; University of Calgary Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Canada; University of Calgary, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Canada; University of Calgary Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, Canada; University of Calgary, Department of Faculty of Kinesiology, Canada. Electronic address: [Email]


Evidence from both preclinical and clinical studies suggests aerobic exercise may dampen age-related decline in cognitive performance. Alterations in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function and reactivity may be a mechanism by which aerobic exercise benefits cognitive performance, and reduces perceived stress. This investigation was completed as an ancillary investigation of the Brain in Motion (BIM) study, a 6-month supervised aerobic exercise intervention. Participants were generally healthy and screened for inclusion/exclusion criteria for the parent study. Thirty-eight participants were recruited (Mean age = 65.0 [SD = 5.1]; 60% female) and the final longitudinal sample was 32 participants. Participants provided a passive drool sample at: waking, 15, 30, and 45 min post-waking to assess the cortisol awakening response (CAR) and 3, 6, 9, and 12 h post-waking to assess daily area under the curve for cortisol. Salivary cortisol was quantified by liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry. The exercise intervention increased CAR but no differences were observed in daily AUC. In addition, larger increases in CAR were positively associated with greater decreases in subjective stress. Thus, aerobic exercise improved the CAR in otherwise healthy, but sedentary older adults and greater improvements in CAR were associated with greater reductions in perceived stress.


Aerobic exercise,Cognition,Cognitive aging,Cortisol,Cortisol awakening response,Depressive symptoms,Perceived stress,Verbal memory,