Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-hfldf Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-28T20:15:03.966Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

3 Body Mass Index Partially Mediates Gait Speed and Executive Functioning in Older Adults

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 December 2023

Aidan Boese*
Palo Alto University, Palo Alto, CA, USA.
Mia Delgadillo
Palo Alto University, Palo Alto, CA, USA.
Nesha Harper
Palo Alto University, Palo Alto, CA, USA.
Kaci Fairchild
Sierra Pacific Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC), at Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, CA, USA. Stanford University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, CA, USA
Correspondence: Aidan Boese, Palo Alto University,
Rights & Permissions [Opens in a new window]


Core share and HTML view are not available for this content. However, as you have access to this content, a full PDF is available via the ‘Save PDF’ action button.

Gait speed is associated with poorer executive functioning performance in older adults such that individuals with slower gait speed have shown declines in cognitive flexibility and set-shifting. Body mass index (BMI) is associated with sedentary lifestyles and slower gait speed, and has demonstrated negative effects on executive set-shifting in this population. However, the interaction between gait speed, BMI, and executive functioning has yet to be examined. The purpose of this study is to investigate the potential mediating effect of BMI on the negative relationship between gait speed and executive functioning in older adults.

Participants and Methods:

The sample included 154 community-dwelling older adults drawn from two clinical trials. Participants were recruited from the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford/VA Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. Gait speed was measured using the six-minute walk test, with longer distances representing faster gait speeds. Weight and height were used to calculate BMI. Each participant completed the Trail Making Test Part B (TMTB), which was used to measure executive functioning. A simple mediation analysis was performed using SPSS PROCESS Macro version 3.5. The outcome variable for the analysis was TMTB completion times. The predictor variable was gait speed, and the mediator variable was BMI. Age was entered as a covariate. We hypothesized that gait speed will negatively predict time to completion on the executive functioning task. We also hypothesized that BMI will mediate this relationship.


The analysis found that gait speed negatively predicted executive functioning scores (b = -.12, p = .02). The overall mediation model was statistically significant (F(3,150) =9.17, p < .001). Gait speed and age negatively predicted BMI (p < .001). BMI was a significant predictor of executive functioning (p = .001). The direct effect of gait speed on executive functioning remained significant after including BMI in the model (p < .001), which suggests that BMI partially mediated the relationship between gait speed and executive functioning. The indirect effect of the model when including BMI was tested using the bootstrap estimation approach with 5,000 samples, and was found to be significant (95% CI [.03,.11]), indicating that mediation did occur in the analysis.


BMI partially mediated the relationship between gait speed and executive set-shifting. Thus, the path by which gait speed predicted executive functioning abilities was partially attributable to BMI, one measure of obesity. This finding suggests that older adults with slower gait speeds may have poorer executive function partially due to greater BMI. Given the importance of executive functions on independence and well-being in older adulthood, management of BMI could lead to improved functioning and quality of life. Interventions to decrease weight in older adults is likely to result in several positive health outcomes, and these results suggest that they may also promote important cognitive processes.

Poster Session 04: Aging | MCI
Copyright © INS. Published by Cambridge University Press, 2023