Purpose: This study compared cognitive (attention, learning, and memory) and typing outcomes during slow treadmill walking or sitting. Seventy-five healthy individuals were randomly assigned to a treadmill walking group (n=37; 23 female) or sitting group (n=38; 17 female).
Methods: The treadmill walking group completed a series of tests while walking at 1.5 mph. The sitting group performed the same tests while sitting at a standard desk. Tests performed by both groups included: the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test and a modified version of the Paced Auditory Serial Attention Test. In addition, typing performance was evaluated.
Results: Participants in the treadmill walking group performed worse on the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test for total learning than the sitting group; the main effect was significant (F(1,73)=4.75, p=0.03, ηp2=0.06); however, short- and long-delay recall performance did not differ between groups (p>0.05). For the Paced Auditory Serial Attention Test, total number of correct responses was lower in the treadmill walking group relative to the sitting group; the main effect was significant (F(1,73)=4.97, p=0.03, ηp2=0.06). The performance of both groups followed the same learning slope (Group x Trial interactions were not significant) for the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test and Paced Auditory Serial Attention Test. Individuals in the treadmill walking group performed significantly worse for all measures of typing (p<0.05).
Conclusion: Walking on a treadmill desk may result in a modest difference in total learning and typing outcomes relative to sitting, but those declines may not outweigh the benefit of the physical activity gains from walking on a treadmill.