Purpose. The aim of this study was to investigate the contextual interference effect on learning a sport-related task in older adults. Methods. We selected 40 physically active individuals aged 65-80 years that were randomly divided into random and blocked practice groups. The task comprised throwing a bocce ball to three targets at distances of 2, 4 and 6 m. Practice consisted of 120 trials divided into two sessions. Two retention tests at a distance of 4 m were conducted (post-10 min and 24 h) and then two transfer tests with a target at 5 m (post-24 h) were performed with the preferred and non-preferred hand. Task performance and movement patterns were measured. Results. Comparisons between the practice groups revealed no contextual interference effect (p > 0.05); the random group showed improved performance during practice (p < 0.05) but the blocked group did not. Overall, the results showed similar performance between the groups in the retention and transfer tests, although it was inferred that the blocked group made insufficient corrective adjustments. Conclusions. It was concluded that contextual interference did not affect the learning of a sport-based skill in older adults. Nonetheless, it can be argued that the parameter modifications may have negatively influenced learning this task by the practice groups and/or they may have required more practice time.
Keywords: Contextual interference; practice schedule; bocce; motor learning; older adults