Posted on Oct 19, 2023, 6 p.m.
Nordic walking, regular walking, or playing a round of golf may significantly improve immediate cognitive function, according to a study from an international team of researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Edinburgh, and ETH Zürichrecently that was recently published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine.
This study explored the immediate effects of 3 distinct cognitively demanding aerobic exercises on cognition and the related biological responses in healthy older adults. 25 healthy participants aged 65+ participated in a 6 km regular walking session, a 6 km Nordic walking session, and an 18-hole round of golf that was conducted in real-life settings with the participants maintaining their typical pace, corresponding to brisk walking.
The researchers used Trail-Making Testing to evaluate cognitive function and blood samples were taken to measure brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and cathepsin B (CTSB) levels. Additionally, the participants wore fitness tracking/monitoring devices to record exercise-specific data, and an ECG sensor with a chest strap to monitor their heart rates.
According to the researchers, a single session of any of the three exercises was found to have helped improve lower cognitive functions measured with the TMT-A test, although they did not find any significant effects in the levels of CTSB and BDNF. Furthermore, based on their results, regular walking and Nordic walking were associated with enhanced executive functions as measured with the TMT-B testing. Their findings are in line with previous research indicating potential cognitive benefits of acute sessions of aerobic exercise with factors such as intensity, type, and duration influencing the extent of observed improvements.
"These findings underscore the value of age-appropriate aerobic exercise, such as golf, Nordic walking and regular walking, in maintaining and enhancing cognitive function among older adults. Previous research has shown that exercise also holds promise as a potential strategy for those experiencing cognitive decline," says Julia Kettinen, the first author of the article and a Doctoral Researcher in Sports and Exercise Medicine at the Institute of Biomedicine, University of Eastern Finland.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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