Skip to main content

Walking provides cognitive benefits for seniors

April 30, 2014

Participating in regular physical activity is one of the best ways to ensure a healthy lifestyle for seniors. Aside from maintaining a diet rich with nutritional offerings, getting in the recommended dose of exercise is integral to boosting overall health.

While this type of activity is key to promoting physical well-being, a number of recent studies have found that it may be important for boosting mental health, as well. Walking may be key to helping strengthen cognition in seniors, whether they're going on a leisurely stroll with friends or taking the dog for a walk each morning. 

Walking may stimulate creativity
Researchers from Stanford University found that walking may inspire creativity. According to a university publication, the study found that creative output increased by 60 percent while participants were engaging in this form of exercise. The environment did not matter, meaning that those who walked outside were equally as likely to come up with more creative ideas than those who walked inside. Marily Oppezzo, co-author of the study and a doctoral graduate student, explained that scientists did not think indoor exercise would yield similar results.

"I thought walking outside would blow everything out of the water, but walking on a treadmill in a small, boring room still had strong results, which surprised me," Oppezzo explained to the source.

The study examined a group of more than 175 students and required them to complete a creativity test after sitting or walking for a predetermined period of time. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of movement for promoting creativity, as 100 percent of walkers were able to come up with at least one analogy, while only 50 percent of sitters could.

Exercise may improve memory 
A separate study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that seniors who participated in regular aerobic exercise had stronger memories than those who did not. According to HealthDay News, the trial followed 86 women over the age of 70 and examined how walking affected their cognitive health. The results found that women who walked regularly had an increase in the memory areas of their brains when compared with those who did not. 

The authors of the study noted that while research indicated a connection between walking and memory capacity, more studies would need to be conducted to truly understand how they are related. They added, however, that the findings were integral for showing seniors how important exercise is for mental health.