Date of Award


Degree Type

Creative Project

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Kinesiology and Health Science

Committee Chair(s)

Eadric Bressel


Eadric Bressel


Dennis Dolny


Brennan Thompson


Background: Older adults tend to have difficulty maintaining balance. It has been suggested that the aquatic environment may provide a safer and more challenging alternative to land for balance training. It has also been suggested that the performance of a dual cognitive-balance task paradigm may increase the competition for cortical resources needed to maintain balance. There is a need to evaluate the influence of an aquatic environment on the performance of a combined cognitive and motor task paradigm in older adults. Purpose: To assess the effects of an aquatic environment on the performance of cognitive and motor tasks in older adults using a dual-task paradigm. Methods: Twenty-one older adults performed a cognitive and motor task separately and simultaneously on land and in water. Cognitive and motor performance measures were number of listening errors and 95% ellipse area center of pressure (balance), respectively. Results: A significant main effect for environment on listening errors was observed (p = 0.001, effect size [ES] = 0.82). Participants made 37.5% (single-task) and 72.3% (dual-task) fewer listening errors when performing the auditory vigilance test in water versus land respectively. A significant main effect of environment on CoP sway was observed (p = 0.003, ES = -1.19). CoP sway areas were 58.3% (single-task) and 64.4% (dual-task) greater in water versus land respectively. Conclusion: Results suggest that older adults make fewer ‘cognitive’ errors when immersed in water compared to on land. This may be beneficial to older adults who are involved in aquatic-based exercise and rehabilitation.