On the subject of the benefits of walking for seniors, it’s intriguing to note a recent pilot study that found frail seniors who walked slowly (no faster than one meter per second) benefited from a brain fitness program known as Mindfit. After eight weeks of sessions three times weekly (each session 45-60 minutes), all ten participants walked a little faster, and significantly faster while talking. Walking while talking requires considerably more concentration than normal walking. The success of this short intervention (which needs to be replicated in a larger study) offers the hope that frail elderly who may be unable to participate in physical exercise, could improve their mobility through brain fitness programs. Poor gait speed is also correlated with a higher probability of falls.
The connection between gait speed and cognitive function is an interesting one. Previous research has indicated that slow gait should alert doctors to check for cognitive impairment. One study found severe white matter lesions were more likely in those with gait and balance problems. Most recently, a longitudinal study involving over 900 older adults has found poorer global cognitive function, verbal memory, and executive function, were all predictive of greater decline in gait speed.
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 Association of gait and balance disorders with age-related white matter changes: The LADIS Study. Neurology [Internet]. 2008 ;70(12):935 - 942. Available from: http://www.neurology.org/cgi/content/abstract/70/12/935
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 Executive Function, Memory, and Gait Speed Decline in Well-Functioning Older Adults. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences [Internet]. 2010 . Available from: http://biomedgerontology.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2010/06/25/gerona.glq111.abstract?sid=d69461ed-80c8-4a8d-b7ef-c790fa5dd0d2