The Japanese research team studied 150 people, average age 72. A walking program was conducted once a week for 90 minutes for three months. The program encouraged the participants to walk on a regular basis and to increase their steps per day gradually. The intervention was conducted in small groups of approximately six, with one group acting as control. By doing this, the researchers hoped to see combined benefits from both exercise and social interaction.
Cognitive function of the participants was evaluated, looking at such things as memory, executive function, word fluency, spatial abilities, and ability to sustain attention. The researchers also looked at quality of life scores, depressive state, functional capacity, range of activities, and the participants’ social networks. To finish off the study, they evaluated motor function, too.
The researchers found significant differences between the intervention and control groups when it came to word fluency, quality of life, functional capacity, including social interaction, and motor function. No significant differences were observed in other cognitive tests.
They concluded that walking programs may provide benefits in some aspects of mental health, including social interaction in elderly community members. The researchers suggest that this study could serve as the basis for implementation of a community-based intervention to prevent mental decline.
In another study, this time conducted in Spain, researchers found that replacing short motorized trips with walking trips could have a significant economic benefit, as well as reducing mortality rates.
The message is clear: leave the car at home if you can, and go on foot. Walking is an exercise that you can and should participate in at all stages of your life.
To find out how cycling could also benefit your good health, read the article The Best Ways to Keep Slim and Trim.