Impact of Cognitive Training on Balance and Gait in Older Adults

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2015 May;70(3):357-66. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbt097. Epub 2013 Nov 5.


Objectives: Cognitive processing plays an important role in balance and gait and is a contributing factor to falls in older adults. This relationship may be explained by the fact that higher order cognitive functions such as executive functions are called upon while walking. The purpose of this study was to examine whether a cognitive training intervention leads to significant improvements on measures of balance and gait.

Method: This randomized trial tested whether cognitive training over 10 weeks improves balance and gait in older adults. Participants were randomly assigned to a computer-based cognitive training intervention or measurement-only control. Outcomes included Timed Up and Go (TUG), gait speed, and gait speed with a cognitive distraction. Data were analyzed using analysis of covariance models with change scores.

Results: Participants' (N = 51) average age was 82.7 for those randomized to intervention and 81.1 for those randomized to control. After 10 weeks, intervention group participants performed significantly better than controls on the TUG. When the cohort was limited to those categorized as slow walkers (baseline 10-m walk ≥ 9 s), intervention participants performed significantly better than controls on TUG and distracted walking.

Discussion: Cognitive training slows degradation of balance and improves gait while distracted, rendering it a promising approach to falls prevention.

Keywords: Balance; Cognitive training; Falls; Gait; Older adults..

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Treatment Outcome