Want to protect your cognitive function as you age? A new study suggests that engaging in activities like walking or playing golf can improve your thinking skills.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland, found that walking about 3.7 miles or playing 18 holes of golf had a positive impact on cognitive function. Nordic walking, a form of full-body walking using poles, also showed the same benefit.
According to Julia Kettinen, the first author of the study, “These findings underscore the value of age-appropriate aerobic exercise, such as golf, Nordic walking, and regular walking, in maintaining and enhancing cognitive function among older adults.” She also noted that previous research has shown exercise to be a potential strategy for those experiencing cognitive decline.
In the study, 25 healthy golfers aged 65 and older took part in three intense aerobic exercise sessions – golf, walking, and Nordic walking – in a real-life environment while maintaining their usual brisk pace. Cognitive function was then assessed using tests that measured attention, processing speed, and demanding skills such as task-switching ability. Blood samples were also collected to measure two chemicals, neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and cathepsin B (CTSB), believed to reflect the benefits of exercise in the brain.
Although levels of BDNF and CTSB did not show significant effects, lower cognitive functions such as attention and processing speed improved. Both types of walking were associated with enhanced executive functioning, which plays a crucial role in planning, organizing, and staying focused.
The study also involved researchers from the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom and ETH Zürich in Switzerland.
These findings highlight the cognitive benefits of engaging in activities like walking and golf as you age. It is important to incorporate age-appropriate aerobic exercise into your routine to maintain and enhance cognitive function. So, grab your golf clubs or go for a walk to protect your thinking skills and promote a healthy brain. The study was published in the October issue of BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine.