How we walk affects what we remember: gait modifications through biofeedback change negative affective memory bias

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2015 Mar;46:121-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2014.09.004. Epub 2014 Sep 28.


Background and objects: Several studies have shown that physical exercise such as walking has effects on depression. These studies have focused on increasing intensity and amount of physical activity. In the present study, we investigated whether not only the intensity but also the style of physical activity affects depression related processes.

Method: Using an unobtrusive biofeedback technique, we manipulated participants (39 undergraduates) to change their walking patterns to either reflect the characteristics of depressed patients or a particularly happy walking style. The intensity of walking (i.e. walking speed) was held constant across condition. During walking, participants first encoded and later recalled a series of emotionally loaded terms.

Results: The difference between recalled positive and recalled negative words was much lower in participants who adopted a depressed walking style as compared to participants who walked as if they were happy.

Limitations: The effects of gait manipulation were investigated in a non-clinical group of undergraduates.

Conclusions: The observed change in memory bias supports the idea that beyond the intensity of walking the style of walking has effects on the vulnerability to depression.

Keywords: Biofeedback; Body; Depression; Embodiment; Memory.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bias*
  • Biofeedback, Psychology / methods*
  • Child
  • Depression / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult