Effects of a supervised walking program on the cognitive function, gait, fitness, and behaviour of inactive older adults




Kowalski, Kristina Anne

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Background & Objectives: Participation in cognitive, social and physical activity (PA) may play a role in prevention of cognitive decline in older adults. Literature supporting the benefits of healthy lifestyle behaviours, especially PA, on cognition continues to accumulate. Moreover, a strong association between gait and cognitive health is increasingly being recognized. Yet, a firm understanding of the individual differences and between-person effects of PA on cognition and gait of older adults is lacking. Thus, the primary objective of the main study was to distinguish the within- and between-person sources of variation in PA on cognition in a group of inactive older adults. Study 2 examined the within- and between-person effects of a) PA on gait and b) gait on cognition. Study 3 examined the social cognitive predictors of walking. Methods: The between- and within-person of PA on cognition were examined in a single-group longitudinal design. Participants (n=159) were enrolled in a four-month supervised walking program and provided with materials and coaching to promote the adoption of behaviours to enhance and maintain their cognitive health. Group participants walked at least 3 times per week at a brisk intensity and were encouraged to get 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous PA per week. At baseline, participants completed measures of social cognitive predictors of walking. Assessments of cognition, diet, fitness, gait, PA and other health behaviours occurred at baseline, and at 6, 9, 12, and 16 weeks follow-up. Results and Discussion: Multilevel models revealed significant: 1) within-person effects of PA on select measures of executive functioning and 2) consistent between-group effects of cognitive activity, but not other lifestyle behaviours, on cognition. Study 2 revealed consistent significant 1) within-person effects of PA on gait velocity and stride time variability during dual task walking, 2) between-person effects of PA on gait velocity during both dual task and normal walking, and 3) between-person effects of gait velocity and stride time variability on cognition during both normal and dual task walking. Significant within-person effects of gait on cognition were limited. In study 3, self-monitoring emerged as a significant predictor of change in walking. Conclusion: Distinct patterns of within- and between-person effects on the PA, cognition and gait were observed. Further work will need to continue to clearly elucidate the within- and between-person sources of variation in relations between PA, gait and cognition using well-designed longitudinal and experimental designs.



Physical activity, Cognition, Gait, Walking, Adherence