Monday, July 8, 2013

A change in Walking patterns

An interesting study posted in the New York Times shows a link between walking gait and early signs of dementia. The full story is here, the following is an excerpt from the story

A large study at the Mayo Clinic involved basic walking, not dual-tasking, but found a similar relationship, said Dr. Rodolfo Savica, a neurologist at the clinic. Most of the 1,341 participants did not have dementia. They were evaluated twice, 15 months apart, with tests of cognitive ability and walking.
Dr. Savica and his colleagues found that on average a person who walked one meter per second slower on their second test scored half a point lower on cognitive tests.
Slower walking was mostly strongly linked to declines in “executive function,” the ability to plan and organize activities. A study led by Dr. M. Arfan Ikram, a neuroepidemiologist at Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam, tried to connect particular changes in gait with specific cognitive impairments.
More than 1,200 people with no signs of dementia were asked to walk normally, to walk and turn around halfway through, and to “tandem walk,” in which the heel of one foot is placed directly in front of the toe of the previous foot. The subjects also were given cognitive tests.
People with poor tandem walking scored low on tests involving fine motor skills. People with lower cadences, who took fewer steps per minute, did worse on tests of thinking speed. And people whose walks were slower and more variable showed poor executive function.
Aside from suggesting that walking may provide early clues that dementia is on its way, the studies may reinforce the possibility that physical activity could help stave off dementia. If slower and more erratic walking signifies neurological damage, could exercises to improve fitness and coordination not only help people walk, but also by help them think?
“Those are the ultimate questions,” Dr. Ikram said. “Right now, we are really at the first step.”

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