Can Cognitive Training Improve Physical Fitness?

It is well known that phys­i­cal fit­ness train­ing can improve cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties. A small study sur­pris­ing­ly sug­gests that it may work both ways: Cog­ni­tive train­ing may improve seniors’ phys­i­cal fit­ness, more specif­i­cal­ly their walk­ing-while-talk­ing speed. Poor gait speed (i.e., walk­ing speed) is cor­re­lat­ed with a high­er prob­a­bil­i­ty of falls as well as with cog­ni­tive impair­ment. This study shows thus a promis­ing exam­ple of how the ben­e­fits of cog­ni­tive train­ing can trans­fer to a cru­cial every­day-life activity .

Twen­ty seniors, aged 70 or old­er par­tic­i­pat­ed in the study. Ten of the seniors par­tic­i­pat­ed in a com­put­er­ized brain fit­ness pro­gram (Mind­Fit, by Cog­niFit) three times week­ly (45–60 min. each time) for eight weeks. The train­ing pro­gram includ­ed a mix­ture of 21 visu­al, audi­to­ry, and cross-modal­i­ty tasks aimed at train­ing most­ly atten­tion and exec­u­tive func­tions (plan­ning, deci­sion-mak­ing, inhi­bi­tion). The oth­er 10 seniors con­sti­tut­ed the con­trol group.

Com­pared with the con­trol group, the 10 seniors in the brain train­ing group improved very slight­ly in their nor­mal walk­ing speed and improved sig­nif­i­cant­ly in their walk­ing-while-talk­ing speed.

Com­ments: The results of this small study are excit­ing for two reasons:

1) Cog­ni­tive train­ing was shown to trans­fer to an untrained activ­i­ty very dif­fer­ent from the trained one (from visu­al and audi­to­ry tasks to mobil­i­ty). How was this pos­si­ble? Cog­ni­tive train­ing tar­get­ing atten­tion and exec­u­tive func­tions was expect­ed to affect walk­ing speed because it is known that impair­ments in atten­tion and exec­u­tive func­tions are asso­ci­at­ed with slow gait in old­er adults. The suc­cess of the inter­ven­tion was high­er on the walk­ing-while-talk­ing speed prob­a­bly because it is more atten­tion-demand­ing to do 2 things at the same time than just one.

2) There is now hope that cog­ni­tive train­ing can affect a cru­cial fac­tor in lat­er life: mobil­i­ty. Such a low-risk and acces­si­ble inter­ven­tion option would be an ide­al strat­e­gy not only for old­er adults who can­not exer­cise phys­i­cal­ly but to poten­tial­ly aug­ment the ben­e­fits of phys­i­cal exer­cise itself.

Learn more about the effect of phys­i­cal fit­ness train­ing on cog­ni­tive abilities:

1 Comment

  1. Health & Fitness on January 10, 2011 at 9:37

    This post is real­ly effec­tive and more informative.….…Thanks for sharing…

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.

English About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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