A Single Bout of Aerobic Fitness Testing Impacts Short-Term Visual Memory in Dpt Students
Purpose/Hypothesis: This study examined physical testing for predicted VO2 and visual memory scores (VMS) for student physical therapists (SPTs) in a classroom setting. Little data exists on physical therapist (PT) or SPT fitness levels. SPTs are educated regarding role modeling their values for health and disease prevention. Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) courses are curriculum offerings in Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs providing opportunities for SPTs to evaluate their own fitness profile and demonstrate the impact of physical activity on health. There is a strong correlation of physical activity to global cognitive improvements such as processing speed/attention, executive functioning and neuroplastic responses in excitatory and inhibitory electrical circuits.2,3 Aerobic fitness is evaluated in our first-year and third-year using predicted VO2 measures. DPT curricula are competitive and challenging programs forcing many students into a sedentary lifestyle due to academic demands. The impact of such graduate education upon the fitness level of SPTs is not known. It is also unknown how a single bout of aerobic exercise impacts short-term visual memory in DPT students. The aim of this study is to determine how a single bout of aerobic exercise testing can also impact visual memory. Detectable memory changes present opportunities for immediate cognitive benefits to SPTs for educational and physical benefits. Number of Subjects: 63(33 female) Materials and Methods: The study used exercise bouts for predicting VO2 max for DPT1 and DPT3 students Mean age 27(SD7.6, Range 21-55) via one of three standardized fitness tests:1 Mile Walk, 1.5 Mile Run, or 3 Minute Step Test. Students were asked to take a web-based visual memory test1 prior to completing the aerobic fitness assessment and retested within 40 minutes of completing the fitness assessment. The pre-/post-test scores were then evaluated via paired t-test and ANOVA using SAS 9.2. Results: The pre-test mean score was 7.35 (SD 1.82, Range 4.5-13), the post-test mean score significantly increase an average of .39 (p=.002) to 7.74 (SD 1.8, Range 5-12). ANOVA revealed no difference between 1.5-mile run, 1-mile walk or step tests (p=.26). Conclusions: One bout of aerobic testing appears to improve short-term VMS in DPT students. This web-based tool may capture VMS changes in DPT classroom settings following fitness tests as short as three minutes. This finding aligns with studies demonstrating improvements in cognitive function following bouts of exercise in adolescent and aging populations. Clinical Relevance: SPTs should act as role-models despite their rigorous academic demands and sedentary classroom behaviors. Educational aerobic testing bouts present an opportunity to demonstrate dual benefits for SPTs in disease prevention and improve academic performance. HPDP threads in PT curricula present in-class opportunities test fitness, with cognitive and potential academic performance impacts. Limitations to this study include a lack of a control group, validity of the web-based visual memory tool, and student report.