Study shows walking can benefit seniors’ cognitive health

As reported by CBC British Columbia, a recent study conducted by the University of British Columbia has revealed that walking three times a week for up to an hour can positively benefit seniors’ brain health by helping to reduce the cognitive impairment that can cause dementia.

Study findings
Participants of the study included seniors who suffer from vascular cognitive disorder—a disease which affects the brain’s blood vessels, rather than the breakdown of neurons, as is the case with Alzheimer’s—and were an average age of 74. Seniors were split into two groups: group one participated in an exercise program entailing walking three times a week for an hour, while group two participated in an education program and prescribed to a healthy diet for a six month period. Out of the two groups, those enrolled in the walking program were shown to have improved their cognitive abilities.

Of interest is a second finding from the study that showed that six months after the study was conducted and group one seniors ceased exercising, they no longer showered cognitive improvement. In fact, no difference was found between group one and two’s cognitive health after the six-month period of inactivity.

A natural approach to disease management
As the results of the study suggest, physical activity is an important aspect of healthy aging, and can also positively impact seniors’ cognitive wellness. As researcher Lui-Ambrose of the “Aerobic exercise and vascular cognitive impairment” study explains, the amount that study participants improved in cognitive health initially resembled the results of what previous drug trials were able to do. This indicates that regular exercise may be an effective way to self-manage disease while also receiving medical treatment.

group of old and healthy people walking in the nature, vintage“Right now there is no effective drug therapy for those individuals with cognitive issues,” Lui-Ambrose told CBC. “Based on our research, as well as the research of others, I do think recommending and supporting the uptake of exercise is a sensible approach.”

A researcher who specializes in aging, Lui-Ambrose adds that many medical professionals are now promoting physical activity as its own form of medicine. “You have a lot of power to alter how you might age cognitively and physically. It’s not too late to start in older age, [even if] you’ve been sedentary most of your life and you already have some cognitive issues.”

Chartwell Retirement Residences believes that active living is a critical component in helping seniors maintain their overall health and wellness. They make it easy for their residents to remain physically active, as well as socially engaged, in their communities so they can enjoy happier, healthier and more vibrant lifestyles.

To learn more about Chartwell’s Live Now life enrichment and recreational activities, including their Rhythm ‘n’ Moves exercise class, click here.