Background: Attention and executive functions show strong associations with slow gait and falls in seniors and have been shown to be amenable to cognitive remediation. However, cognitive remediation as a strategy to improve mobility has not been investigated.
Methods: Using a randomized single-blind control design, 24 sedentary older adults (exercise less than or equal to once weekly and gait velocity <1 m/s) were randomly assigned to an 8-week computerized cognitive remediation program or wait-list. Primary outcome was change in gait velocity during normal pace and "walking while talking" conditions. We also compared the proportion of improvers (velocity change ≥4 cm/s) in each group.
Results: The 10 participants who completed cognitive remediation improved gait velocity from baseline during normal walking (68.2 ± 20.0 vs 76.5 ± 17.9 cm/s, p = .05) and walking while talking (36.7 ± 13.5 vs 56.7 ± 20.4 cm/s, p = .002). The 10 intervention participants improved gait velocity over the 8-week intervention both during normal walking (change: 8.2 ± 11.4-1.3 ± 6.8 cm/s, p = .10) and walking while talking (change: 19.9 ± 14.9-2.5 ± 20.1 cm/s, p = .05) compared with the 10 control participants. Six intervention participants were improvers on normal pace walking compared with three controls (odds ratio = 3.0, 95% confidence interval = 0.5-19.6). All 10 intervention participants improved on walking while talking compared with 3 controls (odds ratio = 3.5, 95% confidence interval = 1.5-8.0).
Conclusions: The findings of this pilot trial are promising and suggest that cognitive remediation may improve mobility in sedentary seniors. This approach should be validated in larger scale trials.