Cognitively enriched walking interventions for older adults to boost cognitive plasticity

01 January 2019 → 31 December 2022
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Biological and physiological psychology
    • Cognitive science and intelligent systems
    • Developmental psychology and ageing
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Neurosciences
    • Neurosciences
    • Neurosciences
walking interventions
Project description

Dementia currently affects more than 47 million people worldwide, is forecasted to triple by 2050
and is one of the most costly disorders in Belgium. There is good scientific evidence that the
cognitive impairments associated with the development of dementia can be lessened or even
reverse because of the plasticity of the brain (rewiring). Recent research has shown that engaging in
regular physical activity combined with performing cognitively challenging tasks is a very potent way
to induce this rewiring of the neural system that can enable people to regain cognitive functions or
prevent decline. Yet, so far, this evidence is based mainly on controlled laboratory conditions. In this
project, we will translate this laboratory-based evidence into a real-life intervention that is easily
accessible and specifically tailored to the needs of the aging population. We will build upon a wellestablished
physical activity program for older adults in Belgium (“healthy walks”) and enrich it with
cognitive training. We will work with older adults, health professionals and scientists to define the
optimum cognitive activities that can feasibly deliver in group settings. We will undertake qualitative
work and conduct pilot trials to finalize the intervention. We then aim to demonstrate the added
value of including cognitive activities to an existing physical activity program in improving cognitive
functioning of older adults by conducting a randomized controlled trial.